26
Feb
11

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Might include spoilers.

I have been told, numerous times, to watch the film/documentary by the already legendary street artist Banksy: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

“The funny thing is that the movie seems to be making a few points, but is unsure of which points exactly.” (Danny the recommendator)

I’m at a loss on where to start. The film is largely shot by a Frenchman in Los Angeles, Thierry  Guetta, who started filming street artists at work; he seemed to be at the right place at the same time and really got to meet and film some of the greatest* street artists of today. The footage is really interesting and I love the ideology and the whole movement behind the art. Some of it I didn’t really consider art but an act of, I don’t know, protest? Against… clean walls? I don’t know. I’m not sure what the point is with just tagging a wall or making a mess (sorry?); but what do I know? The worst I ever did was probably drawing on a school desk with a pencil.

*So they tell me, apart from Banksy I know fuck all.

Art = Money? (From an art exhibition in Seoul, 2008)

So the footage is great, and the whole journey by Guetta from his silly obsession with filming to his mad adventure over the rooftops of various cities and his incredible luck at actually meeting the person he’d been obsessing over – amazing. Fascinating. Cool. The whole thing gets turned upside down when Guetta puts together his own show. It feels like he’s stealing something; taking the heart of a beautiful ideology and selling it for millions of dollars. It’s backwards, it feels like a scam — and yet, you’ve got to give it to Guetta that he actually pulled it off.

I tell kids that all artists begin with imitation and, in time, they develop their own style which incorporates the parts of their influences which are meant to stick. But the whole story with Guetta raises the question if imitation is art, or if it’s just imitation. If dollars were speaking, Guetta’s work is bona fide. But… His work means nothing, even to himself, I think. To me, art is always about the meaning, and never about the money. Money does not equal art.

“Warhol repeated iconic images until they became meaningless, but there was still something iconic about them. Thierry really makes them meaningless.” (Banksy)

I agree with most of the opinions expressed about Guetta on film – that’s he’s a lunatic or just retarded – but he’s a lucky damn fool. Exit Through the Gift Shop really says all it needs to say in the title, but I’m not sure Guetta gets the sting, or if he just doesn’t care. I do feel Banksy and the rest of the (real) artists in the documentary, in turning the camera back on Thierry “Mr. Brain Wash” Guetta, also turn the joke back on him. I don’t think Guetta means to disrespect, but it seems he just doesn’t get it. Just like with the old shirts, Guetta takes something that’s priceless and gives it an extortionate price tag. And people pay. Who’s the fool?

In Banksy’s hands, a strange hobby of an obsessive compulsive filming addict turns into something bearing the trademark of Banksy: provocative, brilliant, thought-provoking art. The film makes the same questions as Banksy’s stencil/graffiti about the value and meaning of art, so I suppose, in the end, Guetta’s mad dash through the street part of street art and his backward landing as an accomplished artist wasn’t a story completely devoid of a moral.

And, by the way, the trailer alone is brilliant.

 

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