This review was written for Watch Out For
Thierry Guetta was obsessed with filming everything. A Frenchman based in Los Angeles he would take his camera everywhere; when he went to the toilet he recorded it, as his children were growing up he captured every moment, and when his cousin ‘Space Invader’ visited LA he tagged along to capture his street art on film.
From this Thierry’s passion for street art grew and soon he was granted access to some of LA’s well known street artists at work. A vintage clothing store owner by day, Thierry soon took to calling himself a film-maker and after months of following one artist in particular, Shepard Fairey, he was asked the question – what was he filming for?
So with hundreds of hours of footage and seemingly unlimited access to the movement’s biggest names Thierry let the idea of making a documentary both sink in with himself and spread amongst the community.
Essentially Thierry was creating the world’s first all access street art documentary and fuelled by this he sought out the one name missing from his star studded call sheet; Banksy.
Banksy is one of the best known street artists around today, a camera shy (for a very good, and legal, reason) Brit whose art has been seen in many streets and on famous landmarks around the world, but who took the movement to a whole new level when his art appeared on the separation barrier on the Palestinian West Bank.
Through a miracle too fortunate to perhaps even be believable, the notorious Banksy contacted Thierry and from there the relationship developed.
It was after Banksy requested to see some of the footage that he realised Thierry was in fact not a filmmaker and compared his film Life Remote Control – The Movie to someone flicking through channels on a television. Banksy then decided that Thierry was the more interesting subject; his obsession with filming stemming from losing his mother at a very young age, and took the directorial reins while suggesting Thierry get more involved in the art on the street level.
What Banksy didn’t expect is how deep Thierry was willing to go as he adopted the name ‘Mr Brainwash’ and set about holding his own exhibition… with the help of a paid team of artists.
Exit Through The Gift Shop is a thoroughly entertaining and amusing documentary that thoughtfully explores the idea of firstly, what is art and who decides what is and isn’t? Secondly, can manufactured art be “good” art? The final third of this film follows Thierry “Mr Brainwash” as he employs staff to create his works of art, all of which resemble or draw heavily on other street or pop art, including Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup tins.
Thierry’s art exhibition went on to earn him approximately one million dollars, and instantly saw his name added to the list of street artist greats, despite having the ideas but essentially not creating the art himself. Thierry is the perfect documentary subject, he is funny – though not always intentionally, and doesn’t do things by halves; his commitment to his exhibition is extraordinary and makes for compelling viewing.
This is a great introduction to street art for the uninitiated and is a great insight for those who are already fans.
The big question is; is this a real documentary or simply a hoax? There is debate as to the legitimacy of the film, and if that is the case then the legitimacy of Mr Brainwash’s art. Is this all a PR stunt controlled by Banksy?
Keep this in mind when watching and form your opinion at the end, it’s not likely we’ll find out for some time if this is indeed just an elaborate prank.
4 / 5