What an oddly involving documentary! Exit Through the Gift Shop begins with a simple story. A Frenchman living in Los Angeles named Thierry Guetta loves to shoot video of everything he sees, shooting his life, family, friends and anyone who will let him. He discovers the culture of street art and begins documenting it first in France, then LA and then around the world. He follows lesser-known artists, ducking the cops late into the night, then hooks up with Shepard Fairey and finally the most intriguing of all street artists, London-based Banksy.
Seeing what and how these guys do what they do is fascinating and many including Banksy are only shown in shadowy hoods to protect their anonymity. (Not so for publicity loving Shepard Fairey.) But the most interesting part comes later. Having become buds with hot property Banksy, Thierry attends his star-studded show in Los Angeles, where his art sells for millions.
Suddenly all his footage of street artists is an attractive commodity and Thierry is finally convinced to cut a documentary. Unfortunately, he ends up with something that his hero Banksy deems unwatchable. So Banksy sends him back to LA to “do some art” while Banksy himself takes over the doc. Little does he know that Thierry who has never “done art” before will take him seriously. Or that the LA art scene will buy it.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is frequently funny and at times Thierry’s cluelessness is baffling, though he does get the last laugh. I was really happy to have been introduced to the art of Banksy, but the film leaves you questioning what is really behind the hype in the art world. Even if you aren’t an art lover, see it. It is the strangest rags to riches tale you’ll see any time soon.
(Note: There is a lot of talk that the entire film is an elaborate hoax dreamt up by Banksy. Time will tell. Or not.)
And just for fun here are a few of the artists you’ll see in the film.