As an artist and art lover I recently got the opportunity to watch the hit 2011 film: Exit through the Gift Shop. This movie is about the world of street art as seen through the eyes of Thierry Guetta, a former Los Angeles based shop owner turned filmmaker who stumbled upon the underground world of street art and began to document it over a span of almost 10 years.
The first hour of the film is excellent as the audience gets a chance to follow Guetta as he travels around the world following street artists as they place their artwork on walls and bridges of cities like Los Angeles, New York, Paris and London.
I admired Thierry Guetta’s desire to document something that nobody had ever seen before and I envied his opportunity to spend countless hours with great street artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy. Guetta had so many awesome opportunities to literally stick his neck out on a limb with these artists as they sometimes put their personal safety and security on the line for art.
A Long Project
After about 10 years of filming, street artists like Shepard Fairey started asking Guetta what he was going to do with the thousands of hours of film that he’s shot and he responded by creating a documentary: Life Remote Control.
Once Banksy watched his documentary he knew that Thierry Guetta wasn’t a real filmmaker at all, instead he knew the reality that Guetta was just an enthusiastic guy with a camcorder who really loved street art and he didn’t have any real filmmaking talent.
Banksy did Guetta a favor and took possession of the thousands of hours of tape that he’d shot over the years and the result is the documentary: Exit through the Gift Shop.
Genius or Scam Artist?
The last 45 minutes of the movie chronicle Thierry Guetta as he turned from wannabe filmmaker to an “artist” in his own right. This turn of events happened as Banksy was working on Exit Through The Gift Shop.
Banksy encouraged Guetta to “go back to Los Angeles and create art” and this encouragement turned Guetta into a man on a mission. He ultimately emulated the street artists that he’d been following for years and ended up hiring a crew of other artists to create artwork using his name. Once the artwork was created, Guetta was able to have his first art show which was a huge hit and ultimately ended up producing over $1 million dollars in revenue for him.
A Monster and a Master Marketer
The interesting and crazy thing about the last 45 minutes of this movie is that it shows how one man can build enough hype and establish his name as an artist even if he has no artistic talent to speak of. Almost all of Thierry Guetta’s artwork involves the use of iconic pictures and images that he has his team of workers create into what he calls “art”.
I laughed as Banksy and Shepard Fairey lamented the fact that they essentially created Thierry Guetta (aka: Mr. Brainwash) and are a part of the crazy establishment that jumped at the chance to buy his art even if this guy doesn’t have any real talent at all. But then again, who am I to judge what’s to be considered talent and what’s not? Part of Guetta’s talent is being able to manufacture an art career out of nothing which has given him the opportunity to earn millions of dollars and do other things in the art world like design the cover for one of Madonna’s recent albums.
I wish the movie would have focused more on the streets artist creative process and also on the danger involved with street art. Hopefully some Hollywood producer will create a movie about Shepard Fairey or Banksy that will star Leonardo DiCaprio or some other young Hollywood star.