Renowned street artist Banksy takes sharp, critical aim at the art industry

Tagging the art industry: In his directorial debut, British street artist Banksy (above) throws sharp jabs at an art industry that has commercialized street art and graffiti, in search of their next big thing. Courtesy Mongrel Media

Exit through the Gift Shop is an intriguing documentary by British graffiti artist Banksy.

It follows Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, obsessed with filming every moment of his life. After a chance meeting with Space Invader, a street artist, Guetta plunges into the underground street art movement and finds a new world to fuel his filming obsession.

When Guetta meets renowned street artists Shepard Fairey and Banksy, the story only gets more insane: Guetta tells the artists he’s making a documentary when he’s really just throwing the recordings into boxes and storing them for his own needs.

After Banksy demands that Guetta produce a cut of the film, which ultimately fails, he allegedly takes over and follows Guetta’s bizarre launch into stardom in the art world under the pseudonym Mr. Brainwash.

Exit is a documentary about the exciting and often dangerous life of street artists around the world with exclusive footage of Banksy and Fairey, but it’s also a well-aimed critique of the art industry.

There has been a lot of speculation about the authenticity of the film: is it real or an elaborate prank by Banksy?

Who cares? The commercial nature of the art world is still exposed and Banksy’s point is no less valid.

Perhaps we’ve all been brainwashed to believe in this outlandish tale, or perhaps the entire art world has been brainwashed into striving to find the next big thing.

Published in Volume 65, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 23, 2010)

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