Documentary Shows the Real Art Scene

Londre Holmes

Art, Redefined: “Exit Through the Gift Shop” shows Guetta’s journey in finding art that transcends the big names in the scene.

What do you call an artist that has broken all the rules of an art form that’s based on breaking all the rules? An artist who, at his first gallery, sold over a million dollars worth of art to both serious collectors and celebrity notables, like Angelina Jolie?

Apparently, you call him Mr. Brainwash. Thierry Guetta, a middle-aged Frenchman who immigrated to the U.S. in the 80s, now infamously known by the moniker of Mr. Brainwash, did just that. However, there is one catch; Mr. Brainwash is nothing more than a hoax and a fraud.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a documentary put together by world-renowned street artist Bansky, turns a critical eye on the emerging street art scene and the art community as a whole, by asking, “What is credible art and who makes that decision?”

“Street art” is an emerging art form created in the same vein as graffiti, noted for it’s illegal placement of art on (you guessed it) the streets of cities worldwide. The art form gained popularity through artists such as Shepard Fairey and Banksy (both of whom have major roles in the film).

Although the documentary is packed with many notable artists, the real star of the show is Guetta. An eccentric storeowner, Guetta has a habit of filming literally everything that happens in his life, even mundane acts like simply walking through the store.

Photos/Courtesy of Paranoid Pictures

This peculiar nuance of Guetta lands him in his native Paris filming his cousin, artist Space Invader and friends, as they vandalize walls under a blanket of dark sky. Through his cousin Guetta begins to meet big time players in the street art scene, documenting their whole artistic processes for more than eight years. He even captures Banksy as he illegally put up a hanging dummy inspired by Guantanamo Bay in Disneyland.

What these artists don’t realize is that Guetta is filming for no reason at all (no project-in-the-works, no hip indie film on the way). He documents the ongoing activities purely out of his love for holding a camera and filming what he sees. The film shows Guetta’s transformation into an overnight celebrity (in the most literal sense possible) through nothing more than rock solid networking.

In “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” Banksy uses Guetta as a mirror held up to the art world so they can view their own reflection, as well as the gullible art buyers, unveiling a false sense of elitism and authenticity. Many of the scenes show Guetta, a man with no artistic background, simply paying a team of artists to execute the ideas created in his head. He also sells the art, along with an endless amount of empty ideas and inspirations, for thousands of dollars.

Overall, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” turned out to be a must-see for art collectors and casual fans alike, leaving viewers with the question, “Am I paying a million for the artwork, or just the name at the bottom?”