‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ Review
Warning: spoiler alert
What is your definition of art? Just when I think I have my definition locked and loaded, something changes and it reinvents itself, widening and becoming more inclusive, like my definition of marriage, and God. We are organic, after all.
Dictionary.com defines art as “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” I would interject “thought provoking” somewhere in there to complete my definition. This film certainly succeeds as an art form; and exposes how easy it is to scam even the brightest of art dealers and unsuspecting public. Call it art, and they will come.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film explores this topic by using either a real life example of the art world’s fickle nature, or else a completely fabricated story, we’re not sure. That’s Banksy for you; always provocative. The film’s director is Banksy himself, the infamous and elusive British street artist. My friend who knows more about art than I educated me about Banksy’s prolific and irreverent graffiti on a trip to London. We happened across a mobile stall selling pictures of Banksy’s clever, less traditional art which has been showing up in Tube stations and on the streets of London since the early 1980’s.
I bought the prints, had them framed, and they now hang proudly on my staircase wall. I love them – they are Banksy, I make sure to whisper to admirers. (Incidentally, I paid much less for these prints than I did for my personal favorite in our modest art collection, my daughter’s grade five class art piece that we won under shady circumstances at last year’s school art auction. It was dog eat dog, I’ll leave it at that.)
Banksy’s film chronicles the life of Thierry Giuetta, a Frenchman who takes up videography, and accidentally becomes notorious in street art circles as the man who is producing a documentary on street art, when in fact Thierry has never viewed one of his own tapes. He embeds and endears himself with street artists like Space Invader (his cousin), and Shepard Fairey, who lead him by chance to the secretive Banksy. When faced with the inability to create a coherent documentary on street art, Thierry reinvents himself as LA street artist Mr. Brainwash, and pulls a show of his art together haphazardly. The art community eats it up, and spend millions of dollars buying samples of his work at his unlikely art show.
In an effort to showcase his beloved street art for the innovative art that it is and save Thierry’s years of work, the muli-talented Banksy takes over the boxes of footage with the promise of making a movie, and not surprisingly knocks it out of the park.
In the end, whether any of it is true remains unclear, which Banksy pulls off beautifully: instead of being annoyed, we are charmed.