Exit Through the Gift Shop: Banksy’s 2010 Documentary

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy (2010)

Film Review

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only documentary world famous guerilla street artist Banksy ever made. He introduces the film (with his face and voice disguised) as a documentary about a would-be French-American filmmaker who wanted to make a documentary about the notorious street artist.

The documentary relates how Los Angeles French-American secondhand clothes merchant Thierry Guetta spent ten years (1999 -2009 making thousands of videos graffiti and street artists he met through his cousin Space Invader and his friend Shepherd Faery.* Thierry would go out with the artists** as they (illegally) painted walls at night.

After learning about the 2003 prank Banksy pulled off when he installed one of his own street paintings at the Tate Museum in London. Determined to meet the elusive artist, he got the opportunity in 2006, when Banksy’s assistant was turned back by immigration during a visit to Los Angeles.

Banksy, who knew all LA’s blank walls from filming local street artists, agreed to serve as his helper. In return, Banksy allowed to Thierry to film him (his hands only from behind).

Thierry also helped Banksy with a prank at Disneyland  in which they handcuffed a blowup doll in an orange Guantanamo jumpsuit to a railing. Banksy includes the hilarious footage (filmed by Thierry) in this documentary.

At Banky’s urging, Thierry attempted to edit and pull together his thousands of hours of footage into a film, but the result was underwhelming. Instead Thierry (again at Banksy’s urging) began doing street art himself, while Banksy edited the footage.

Thierry mortgaged his business and his home to set up a studio, where he hired a crew of artists to mass produce satiric images of modern social icons. Calling himself Mister Brainwash (MBW) he hired the vacant CBS studios for his first exhibit in 2008. Endorsed by both Banksy and Fairey, his Life is Beautiful exhibit became front page news, lasted two years, and earned him millions of dollars.


*Fairey, considered the world most prolific street artist (as of 2010), is most famous for designing the iconic image of Obama used in his 2008 campaign.

**Among the most famous street artists Thierry filmed are Seizor, Sweet Tool and Cycops, Ron English, Dot Masters, Swoon, Buffmonster.

 

 

 

Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art

Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art

Directed by Ello Espana (2019)

Film Review

This documentary, about the anonymous street artist Banksy, is the best I’ve seen in ages. Banksy made world headlines last year when one of his paintings sold at a Sutherby’s auction for ¬£1,420,000 and mysteriously self-shredded once the bidding finished.

The film is narrated by friends and artists who have worked with Banksy. The street artist grew up in Bristol, where he was heavily influenced by the 1980s grafitti/hiphop/rap/DJ culture. The Traveler* community (often associated with anarchism) has always had a strong presence in Bristol and the Glastonbury Festival that takes place annually in the area.

A local youth worker offered up the premises of Barton Hall youth club as a space for all Bristol youth to legally tag and post graffiti. As a teenager, Bansky spent most weekends there. He maintains he was first politicized by the 1990 poll tax riots under Margaret Thatcher. By the 1990s, Banksy (like the late New York street artist Jean Paul Basquiet) was moving away from the tagging towards conceptual art with a political message.

The film includes a video clip of Banksy (his face disguised by a bandana) a mural for the Zapatistas shortly after they occupied Chiapas in 1994. He has also painted stunning murals along the illegal wall the Israeli government erected between Israel and the West Bank, as well as installing a permanent exhibition in Gaza (in 2015) called The Walled Off Hotel: the Worst Hotel in the World.

Banksy first came to world prominence in 2003, when he infiltrated famous art museums all over the world to install politically provocative paintings. It was around this time he moved to London and began accepting commissions to paint murals and other art works. He still considers himself an outlaw, underground street artist, producing art for ordinary people who never buy paintings or visit art museums. His images are simultaneously ironic and iconoclastic, in a way that forces people to question the way society operates. One of my favorites is the image of a small girl in a pink dress frisking a soldier in riot gear.

When Jude Law, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie started buying his prints, their value skyrocketed. At present it’s not uncommon for prints Banksy sells for $150 to be resold at auction for hundreds of thousands¬† of dollars. His prank last year at Sutherby’s was his response to the extreme commodification of a creative art form that was meant to be freely available to the poor and downtrodden.

In my view, his work represents a highly evolved form of culture jamming (see Culture Jamming: The Grassroots War Against Mind Control


*In the UK, Travellers are an itinerant ethnic group of Irish or Scottish origin.

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy. Type Kanopy and the name of your library into the search engine.