Exit through the gift shop – A short season at the NGA

Loose Brown 13 June 2010 2
ETGS Poster

[Review by Mrs Brown]

If you are looking for something indoorsy to do in Canberra this long weekend then I would definitely recommend you see the first film of the elusive street artist, Banksy at the National Gallery of Australia.

Not only well it give you 90 minutes of genuine, laugh out loud entertainment but it will bug you for the rest of the week while you puzzle over whether the film is a genuine documentary or a very well crafted hoax. Is truth stranger than fiction?

The film is essentially in two parts, the first tells the story of Thierry Guetta a Frenchman living in California, a compulsive filmmaker who develops an obsession with street art and sets out to make a documentary of renowned artists Shephard Fairey and Space Invader and others. We follow his journey in the back streets of Paris, London and LA where he tags along in the dark of night with the artists as they scale buildings, paste up their stencils and get chased by the police. It becomes his goal to make contact with Banksy and when they do, Banksy takes a liking to the odd but helpful Frenchman, ‘his facial hair is like someone from the 1860’s’. The second part flips the camera around to tell the story of Thierry from the point of view of Banksy and other street artists as the rather average quality of Thierry’s documentary emerges and they realise that the one person who has unprecedented access to their art-making and their philosophy is not quite up to the task of recording it.

For what is a relatively short film, it is though provoking. It explores the hype and commercialism of street art, the nature of obsession, gullibility and group-think and also the big question: what makes good art?

It is also a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, poignant and sad at times as we the film reveals the extent of Thierry’s film-making obsession and the long suffering wife and children. And speaking of rollercoasters, check out Banksy and Guetta’s crazy adventure in Disneyland. But sympathy turns to disbelief as Thierry reinvents himself as the street artist, Mister Brainwash and stages the show to end all shows, exploiting even his friends to achieve success.

What we learn is that scanning an image on a computer, applying a little bit of photoshop, blowing it up to over-life size and sticking it on the side of a building or spattering it with fluro coloured paint seems to be the key to making great art and loads of cash. But is Banksy or his fellow artists doing anything different?

The film also gives a tantalising taste of the world of Banksy, his studio and methods. His face is always in shadow but he comes across as deadpan funny and a regular nice guy.

Whether Banksy (is it really him anyway) is taking us for a ride or not with this film, it is worth going along with. It will be fascinating to see where the story ends and whose art survives the hype.

(More details at the NGA site or moshtix.

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2 Responses to Exit through the gift shop – A short season at the NGA
AngryHenry AngryHenry 12:44 pm 15 Jun 10

I went along to this on the weekend. Only found out by word of mouth.

It was fantastic. A really good film.

I’m a fan of Banksy and Shepard Fairey and the whole movement but I didn’t know what to think of all of it by the end. Which just made it seem all the more clever to me.

There are a lot of people now imitating the work of Banksy and Fairey I think and it devalues the style as a whole but these guys still strike me as very talented and original.

But that Mister Brain Wash, man! Where does he fit in? Some kind of pop-art street hybrid that has completely cashed in on the movement? He was there at the start, albeit by accident, then completely ripped of the style of those he helped and made millions.

Good art to me is supposed to be thought provoking and this certainly was.

anonymoose anonymoose 6:47 pm 13 Jun 10

Thanks for the write up. Unfortunately I can’t make tomorrows sessions; Wish this was advertised better.

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