Street art and graffiti never really became a phenomenon until the internet became a household mainstay. If you felt like placing an homage to Space Invaders on the side of the bridge it was something you could acknowledge on your way to work/school/whatever.
Now, within minutes, your passion can be searched and copied on Google within seconds. Artists like Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, Banksy were all relative unknowns, now, they are legends of the underground art world.
Documentaries function best when they take a subject most are unaware of and delve into it with a sense of verve. Covering such material without overloading the audience on jargon is also a plus. By letting us into a world which we are unfamiliar documentaries enlighten and expand upon unseen vantage points of life.
The subject of this particular documentary? One of the most mysterious pop culture figures in recent history, the man known only to the world as Banksy.
Little is known about Banksy, his work is scattered through the streets of Los Angeles and he dons a now trademark black hoodie, but that is all we know. Curious to find out more about our enigmatic protagonist, the camera takes a detour. As Exit Through the Gift Shop unfolds it is made clear that the documentary about Banksy is really a documentary about Thierry Guetta AKA Mr. Brainwash. How meta.
Whether Exit Through the Gift Shop is real or not is not the question. That Mr. Brainwash can become a celebrity overnight through nothing more than the repetition of other's work is the main focus of the story. Originally a voyeur of the street scene, Thierry managed to take the art world by storm and succeed despite his proudly displayed eccentricities.
Each cut away from Mr. Brainwash prompts the viewers to ask themselves: is my chain being yanked? This man can't be succeeding, he is a barely functioning psychopath!
Back to the point, Thierry's art brings to mind the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Throw Away Your Television". "It's a repeat of a story told, it's a repeat and it's getting old." Nothing Thierry Guetta presents is original and the gallery which brought him such fame is largely not even his own work. He is an icon for all of the wrong reasons.
Pop art is eating itself alive and Banksy's documentary is a clear indicator why.
You want to be fooled...
***1/2 out of ****