Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Welcome to Ballista Magazine’s first themed art showcase, Graffiti Week!  This week, we will be featuring some of the top street artists and rogue citizens from throughout the globe as a means to bring overlooked, underappreciated, and misunderstood art into the forefront of design discussion.  As a general precaution, the artists showcased are no strangers to those well-versed in graffiti and/or street art; however, they are heroes of subversion and are well worthy of considerable study in the fields of art and design.

This week, I had the pleasure of viewing the Banksy-produced (supposedly) film, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010).  A cinematic triumph by our standards, the most interesting aspect of the film was the balance of anonymity and personality.  Here is our admittedly lackluster attempt at a synopsis:

The film chronicles the story of Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman currently living in Los Angeles with an affinity for the videocamera.  Guetta, cousin of notorious French artist Invader, began documenting various street artists under the pretense that he was making a paradigm-shifting documentary on street art when in reality, Guetta was at best an amateur film obsessive that loved the danger and statement of the underground graffiti world.  After a variety of fortunate networking opportunities, Guetta crossed paths with Shepard Fairey, the brain child behind one of the most iconic undertakings in street art, the Obey Giant campaign.

Guetta cultured his love for graffiti with Fairey, who eventually became Guetta’s liaison to the unicorn of the graffiti world, Banksy (the subject and eventual producer of the film).  A man without a face or a name, Banksy has worldwide recognition as the most infamous street artist of all time.  At this point, the subject reverses to document the life of Guetta, who adopts the moniker “Mr. Brainwash”.  We won’t go into too much depth to prevent the inevitable spoiler, but we will say there is quite a bit of money, humor, and social criticism that ensues…

There is a great deal of speculation regarding the film’s validity and even more skepticism regarding the identities of the artists portrayed.  While some artists remain anonymous others outwardly reveal their identity, which has led to a great deal of discussion regarding whether or not the film is an elaborate hoax conceived by the mastermind of subversion, Banksy.  In any event, the mock-umentary is a treat to the eyes, mind, and is well worth the bombastic $11.00 charge most cinemas are currently charging.  It is a must-see for art and design enthusiasts alike!  Stay tuned for more on these featured artists throughout the week!

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