Exit Through the Gift Shop
Over the past decade one of the big mysteries of the art world has been the identity of Banksy. Now, in his first foray into filmmaking, the mystery man places the issue of identity at the centre of his pseudo documentary on street art.
The first image is classic Banksy. It’s purportedly the artist himself sitting in front of camera with his face blacked out by backlighting and a hoodie and his voice scrambled to sound like Stephen Hawkins. For all we know, it could be Darth Vader sitting in frame, nonetheless this silhouette figure starts to recount the hilarious tale of how he came to direct a movie.
Enter Rhys Ifans’ voiceover and the tale of Thierry Guetta aka Mr Brainwash, an LA-based vintage story owner who falls in love with street art when on a vacation to his native France, where he discovers that his cousin is the mysterious artist known as Space Invader. From this moment on, Guetta spends every moment he can following artists holding spray cans. Back home in LA he befriends Shepard Fairey, who eventually introduces him to Banksy. Fairey is currently being sued for copyright infringement over his multicoloured Obama Hope election poster that was ubiquitous during the US election: is it any wonder Banksy keeps his real identity a secret?
Guetta himself is a mystery. He’s so French, it’s a wonder he’s doesn’t go on strike while filming. He also came out of nowhere in 2008 to put on a show in LA under the guise of Mr Brainwash and this transformation from filmmaker to street artist is a major sideshow in the movie. But it’s his footage of Banksy at work that is most intriguing especially when he shown into what is apparently the artist studio and the filming of the Disney Guantanamo stunt.
It’s to Banksy’s immense credit that he gives a potted history of the art form in an interesting and funny way that never feels like a lecture. Most impressively the questions about identity, society and life that the filmmaker posits over the course of this anarchically intelligent documentary feature mirror those found in his artwork.
Cameo, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 5 Mar.