Exit Through The Gift Shop is one of those films that created low expectations because the written descriptions I read led to some perconceived ideas of what the was about. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film during the actual experience. It raises many issues and can be seen as a multi-faceted film. It is the story of the creation of a new art scene player in the guise of Mr Brainwash(MBW)-the graffiti name of Thierry Guetta, who started out documenting the burgeoning graffiti scene through the art of his cousin-Space Invader. From there he befriends other graffiti artists including Stephen Fiarey (best known for being sued by the AP for his Obama Hope poster), and eventually, perhaps the most celebrated street artist Banksy himself. Banksy encourages Guetta to make a documentary film chronicling the movement, but the result is a sprawling mess without a narrative and Banksy takes over and encourages Guetta to do some of his own street art and then do a show. Guetta mortgages his house and sells his consignment shop in order to create his own Warhol-like factory to churn out pieces for his first show in a massive warehouse. the art is derivative of artists like Warhol, Harring, Fairey, and Banksy himself. He creates a massive amount of hype and sells over $1 million total for pieces from the show. Banksy and many others are somewhat chagrined by the rapid success of Mr. Brainwash.
Art has always been sort of an Emperor's Clothes enterprise for me as this film depicts it. What is th relative value of art of graffiti artists/ This happened before in the early 80s art scene as graffiti artist began selling canvases for $20,000. A lot of it seems to be based on hype and self-promotion and the sense that each individual viewer can judge the merits of a piecee of art with a "good/bad" dichotomy. It seems much harder to fake a good film or novel. But art shows are participatory and a buyer can buy a slice of the limelight buy purchasing a piece. I have witness similar real life examples where a mediocre artist with relatively little training was able to create a hype and a buzz and get ignorant dupes with too much money to purchase works of art, going as far as to get patrons to commission portraits of themselves or with their significant other. The pretensions of the art scene can often bee extremely unpalatable. Mr. Brainwash is shockingly inarticulate about the meaning and inspirations for his work-it doesn't always have to be so. I truly do admire and respect he art of Banksy-but Mr. Brainwash could be a telling metaphor of the celebrity culture and perhaps L.A. itself which is all about perception and image rather than substance.