• James Rutherford

'Exit Through the Gift Shop': Banksy's Immensely Entertaining Homage to Street Art Culture


Movie poster for the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop from famed street artist Banksy

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" (2010) is a highly entertaining British documentary centered around the phenomenon of street art and ostensibly focused on world-renowned artist Banksy—though told largely from the perspective of a beguiling amateur filmmaker and artist named Thierry Guetta.


A French immigrant residing in Los Angeles, Guetta embraces an ongoing obsession with video recording and documenting his surroundings and daily misadventures, before finding himself immersed in filming the shadowy night-time activities of covert street artists. With aspirations of crafting a full-on documentary on the rising street art scene, Guetta is eventually introduced to the mysterious and illustrious Banksy, quickly becoming his personal guide through the streets of LA—absorbing great inspiration from his esteemed colleague.


Wryly and amusingly narrated by Rhys Ifans, the storyline follows a series of increasingly unexpected and revelatory turns, including Guetta's own evolution from filmmaker to street artist in his own right (self-dubbed "Mr. Brainwash")—his subsequent success leaving Banksy baffled and questioning the very nature of artistry and celebrity-hood altogether.


Some have questioned the authenticity of the film in it's documentary form, pointing out that Banksy himself is listed as the official director. and accusing him of fabricating an elaborate hoax here—perhaps even inventing Guetta/Mr. Brainwash altogether. It's an enticing accusation that only adds to the richness and allure of the material, lending a vibrant air of intrigue to an already wonderfully-crafted escapade. It's all enormous fun not to be unduly dismissed or overlooked.

 

View the trailer: