As anyone knows, Style Wars is the ultimate film about graffiti. It gives an inside scoop to the art that came from the streets and lived on the streets. 20 years later, in a very different world, Exit Through the Gift Shop illuminates the world of street art’s most famous players. At first, I felt excitement about the underground art world but that feeling quickly dissipated as I realized that this film was just about notoriety, manipulation and commercialization.
With such huge names as Invader, Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and, of course, the famed Banksy, I did not expect the film to take such a drastic turn as to highlight the birth of Mr. Brainwash – an overnight sensation. Looking back, it seemed like a normal evolution and – not knowing anything about it before watching – maybe I was duped into thinking that it was a real documentary.
I must say that my jaw dropped halfway through the film when – SPOILER ALERT – it is revealed that the crazy, French, “street-art documentarian,” Thierry Guetta is Mr. Brainwash. How could it be that this man is Mr. Brainwash?
While in Miami for Art Basel this year, I saw Mr. Brainwash’s work Under Construction – from a distance – in a cab. My friends groaned that Mr. Brainwash was a poser and that his art was bad and fake. I had never seen his work before and based on the size and scale and audacity of this work, I assumed – regardless of the caliber of the work – it had to be someone who like street artist Banksy said had spent “years perfecting their craft” and “finding their style.”
It comes to be known – or maybe not known – that Mr. Brainwash is an art piece masterminded by Banksy. How else would someone draw 4,000 people to their first show and produce $1 million dollars in sales? But the real question to ask yourself is – Does Thierry Guetta know that he is just Banksy’s pawn? Further, do you think that Thierry Guetta really cares if he’s being used as along as he is cashing in? Like he said at the end, “Life is like chess and I don’t know how to play chess.”
All in all, I found Exit Through the Gift Shop to be a thrilling, jaw-dropping, and thoroughly entertaining film. I wonder when/where we’ll see Mr. Brainwash next…