Exit through the Gift Shop
DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Banksy
Starring Banksy, Thierry Guetta
Release date: December 14, 2010
Don’t forget to exit through the gift shop after buying that fancy painting for some thousands of dollars at an art exhibit. Once in the gift shop you will be guaranteed to see a smaller version of the painting you just bought scaled down in size so it can be presented on keychains, postcards, and birthday cards; just a few more ways in which the artist can earn an extra buck. The artist on display will undoubtedly be wearing a smile that stretches from cheek to cheek as he is being interviewed by magazines and newspapers dying to understand his motivation and inspiration. He will present himself in an admirable light, disguising his true cut-throat mentality, so he can coax individuals he does not even know into buying his adaptation of Warhol’s Campbell Soup portrait which he turned into a large can of spray paint.
This is what has become of the community of graffiti artwork that many enigmatic figures hold dearly to their hearts. Exit through the Gift Shop, an immensely entertaining and interesting documentary, details the particulars that played a part in getting the underground art into the commercial world. These figures involved with graffiti art were content with their graffiti portraits remaining ineffectual in the commercial realm. Their concernments were not for the fame or wealth. Instead they reveled in delight as they saw their graffiti emblazon an otherwise mundane public space such as a wall or building. Their art was meant to be revolutionary, thought-provoking, and genuine. Of course it was dangerous and illegal. Cops made it a necessity to capture the graffiti artists but to little avail. But it presented for these artists a mode of expression. Since their work was not sophisticated enough to adorn the walls of a prestigious museum they sought a larger arena. Anywhere in the city that proved to be a workable canvas for their art, the artists would do anything in their powers to decorate a wall or building with their individuality. Instead of exiting through the gift shop they exited through the impenetrable night, fleeing rapidly after their portraits were complete because authorities may be congregated somewhere ready to bring them down. They disappeared into the night leaving as their only trail of evidence an eccentric portrait that only they can convey the meaning of.
A man by the name Banksy is the most famous and most radical of all the graffiti artists. He creates portraits of rarified oddness and brilliancy in places that exceed description. Somehow he gets to the highest rooftop and even the wall in West Bank that serves as a barrier. Any public space that seems like a legitimate canvas for his artwork, Banksy does not hesitate to put on display his talents. His recognition in the world of graffiti art is unsurpassed. The work he accomplishes is an artistic declaration of war aimed toward the highbrow artists found in the fancy galleries. Bansky is an enigma. His physical appearance is incomprehensible to many (he appears in the documentary as a shadow figure). But someone was able to wiggle his way into Banksy’s exclusive lifestyle and perceive the complexity of Bansky from a firsthand experience. This someone was Thierry Guetta. Sporting proudly his oversized moustache and speaking in a unique dialect, he did not only see the fulfilling accomplishments of Banksy’s graffiti art. He was striving to see beyond that. Guetta cunningly detected in Bansky the possibilities of fame.
Guetta got his first whiff of this esoteric art community when he came in contact with his cousin who was a space invader artist, plastering the iconic space invader image on telephone poles, sides of buildings and curbs. Guetta began filming his cousin’s work. This soon led Guetta to other artists who he began to film as well. These artists trusted Guetta in him filming them. He would frequently attend with them on their night escapades, filming every second of them doing artistic graffiti. He informed them he was going to put together a documentary of graffiti artists. He gained their trust and was soon led to Banksy and was his assistant. In a few years he had accumulated an incalculable amount of footage. Showing Banksy the footage he put together all Banksy could do was laugh. Guetta was incompetent as far as a filmmaker was concerned. Banksy then decided to construct the documentary, telling Guetta to venture out and do some of his own work. Bad mistake. Guetta, with a family to support, decided to pervert the world he was so immersed in for the last few years so he could make a fortune.
Guetta is that man masking his cut-throat mentality at his art exhibit and the documentary does spend a bit too much time with his flamboyant art exhibit (he rented out an abandoned CBS studio in Los Angeles). But “Exit through the Gift Shop” is not masking anything as it tells of the portrait of who the “true” artists are and the ones who are strictly out for fame and fortune. Banksy directs the documentary and there is a slight sense of jealousy and suppressed contempt found subliminally pervading the entire documentary. He was the teacher who has been unexpectedly usurped by the student who is invariably consumed by fame and fortune.
****1/2 out of *****