Review: Banksy’s ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’

Last night I had the opportunity to see the U.S. premiere of the new Banksy film Exit Through The Gift Shop and I have to say that I loved it.

The story is about a French guy living in Los Angeles named Thierry Guetta who started documenting the street art scene in the late 90’s thanks to his cousin, whom you may know as Space Invader. Eventually he was hanging out with all the big guns like Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Ron English, Buff Monster, so on and so forth. But the one guy he couldn’t get a hold of was Banksy, and it became his goal to document him. Soon enough that time came and they did get acquainted, and what’s more, became friends.

Then one day Banksy mentions to Thierry that he should start making his own art and leave his tapes with Banksy. He did both of these things, which is where this movie came from, but Thierry also ended up creating the alter ego Mr. Brainwash. Here in Los Angeles the Mr. Brainwash show was hyped immensely, people lining up around the block to see it. That’s sort of the whole point of the movie, that this guy who documented these amazing artists for years, who never did art himself, was suddenly selling millions of dollars worth of “art” without ever having done anything really.

To me the movie is split into two acts, the first half is about Thierry, a documentarian who’s footage rivals that of Beautiful Losers, it’s that epic. But then in the second act, because of Banksy’s suggestion, Thierry creates Mr. Brainwash and thus becomes obsessed with himself, no longer concerned with documenting these artists. He starts ripping off basically every major street and pop artist of the last 30 years and puts a huge price tag on all of it. I feel this strategy differs from Banksy because Banksy makes art that’s his based on his point of view, while Mr. Brainwash created art to make money, refinancing his house and spending all his money to make his show happen.

The premiere itself was quite fun and interesting. For example, Banksy paid for the whole thing himself, all the booze, the cars out front, the space, there was no branding anywhere. The celebrities were out in force as well, including Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Pete Wentz, Ashley Simpson, Darryl Hannah, Juliette Lewis and Adrian Brody. I also saw James Mercer and Danger Mouse, the latter I had a very brief conversation with but he was very friendly, so that was fun.

If you have the chance to see this film I’d definitely suggest it. If you understand the street art scene, and I apologize for using a generic and possibly elitist phrase, then you’ll understand why this movie is important, especially in the context of “What is art?”. My favorite line of the movie was something to the effect of, “The joke is on… well, I don’t know who the joke is on. I don’t even know if there is a joke.”

More photos under the cut.


16 Comments Review: Banksy’s ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’

  1. felipe April 13, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    amazing cant wait to see it
    pete wentz is useless tho

  2. jonkeown April 13, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    I was all sorts of hyped for this movie when I first heard about it, I can’t wait for it to come around my city. The fact that is gets your seal of approval just makes the wait even worse.

  3. Anna April 13, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    I’ve already been in “can’t fucking wait to see it” mode for awhile, but I always welcome further encouragement! Though I doubt any viewing experience I’ll eventually have (no plans as of yet to screen in my town :[) will match that RIDICULOUSLY beautiful theatre. I can’t say I’ve ever been jealous of Los Angeles, but there’s always a first for everything!

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  5. Hertz April 13, 2010 at 10:05 PM

    You forgot to mention they handed out spray cans to people on the red carpet to tag up a limo and truck!

    At the end of the film when everyone was leaving the auditorium, I found one of banksy’s “forged” quids on the ground. I wonder if there were more scattered about and if any other people found them.

  6. Dcat April 13, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    saw that Film @ Berlinale, cant wait to see it again, what a cool story
    –>i loved it too

  7. matt sloan April 14, 2010 at 12:55 AM

    i think it’s Invader and not Space Invader. :) enjoyed the nice writeup. :)

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  9. Tom April 14, 2010 at 6:01 AM

    Ive seen plenty of articles mentioning it… but does anyone know of when and/or where the chicago release is? Ive been dying to see this, but it seems like the midwest gets shafted from amazing things like this.

  10. MZA April 14, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    How was the music in the film?
    I see that it features original music from Geoff Barrow (YES!) and roni size (WHA?).

  11. MZA April 14, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    PS TOM,
    it is showing in chicago at the end of the month i think? dates are on the official site. (follow the link bobby placed at the top of the post)

  12. phin April 14, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    saw the movie in GB and don’t understand how banksy issues this anti-commercial message but hypes his film obviously because of similar intentions as Thierry Guetta concerning his “fake-art”

  13. saer April 14, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    Looking forward to seeing this..even though the banksy fans i’ve met online have for the most part got on my last frakking nerve, i’m hoping any and all at the cinema won’t.

  14. Elise Purcell April 15, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    I went to this at Sundance…by far my favorite film there…I loved your review, which seemed to reflect my thoughts exactly, or are mine reflecting yours? or are there any thoughts anyway? jajajaja…. and the pictures are amazing as well.

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