Exit Through the Gift Shop – Are Warhol’s 15 minutes up?

I finally got around to seeing the street art documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.  This much hyped documentary is one of the more fascinating and entertaining films I have seen in a long time.  It poses the age old question ‘what is art?’

Many people feel like (and there are clues to suggest) that this film is a manufactured experiment.  An insiders joke orchestrated by the Master Prankster and the most well known street artist Banksy.  A commentary on how easily the masses are “Brainwashed.”  The film focuses on a French filmmaker named Thierry Guetta who seemingly transforms himself into an art star overnight and goes by the nom de plume Mr Brainwash. Even if this film is a complete work of fiction scripted for gullible audiences it still holds up as a fascinating commentary on the concept of Pop Art and a look into the birth of the Street Art movement.  The idea that one can appropriate everyday items, utilize assembly line techniques, brand it and call it art has been called into question on the big screen.

Knowingly or unknowingly Exit Through the Gift Shop reveals that The Emperor that is Street Art has no clothes. The Street Art movement finds much of it’s inspiration from Andy Warhol’s factory and the assembly line techniques born out of that legendary space.  This film places street artists in the very same cross-hairs that took aim on the mighty Warhol.  In less than 6 months Mr Brainwash manufactures his own stardom utilizing the Warholian blueprint.  The question arises, if all it takes to be an art star is a great marketing strategy and a craigslist ad (Which is how Mr Brainwash finds his little elves) then when does it cease to be art and start to be product? And it begs the bigger question, is this Pop Art movement all a big fraud?  Are Warhol’s 15 minutes up?

I have been a fan of street art since the mid 90′s and after leaving the theatre I found myself really struggling with the question, is this art?  Suddenly I challenged my own visceral appreciation of this movement because the process was being called into question on the big screen.   It is this debate that make Exit Though the Gift Shop a stimulating and entertaining film.

Check out the trailer below.

Trevz

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4 comments

  1. [...] On Monday a bunch of Banksy pieces started appearing all over the city promoting his film Exit Through The Gift Shop. [...]

  2. [...] the jump are more pictures and an exclusive five minute sneak peek of the documentary (shouts to TheNewPop for [...]

  3. Hey Django3000

    I don’t disagree with you that the Street Art movement is more connected to the Graffiti movement, but to ignore the growing influence of the Pop Art movement is to ignore the evolution from spray can originality to Warholian like mass production. While the spirit of rebellion & flying under the radar still thrives in Street art, the process of replication & detached production are also infiltrating this movement.

    I do agree with this statement

    “What exit thru the gift shop has achieved, in elevating Guetta’s work over Banksy’s , is the official end note of considering actual Graffiti artists as gallery worthy material.”

    In the end I think that is what Banksy wanted to do and only time will tell if he pulled it off. My observation in this blog entry was that in the process he may have exposed the Warholian influence in Street art as also being a fraud. Collateral damage?

    Trevz

  4. Dude. Your review is nice & all, but in connecting
    Guetta to Warhol, you’ve COMPLETELY missed the
    raw connection of Banksy, Ferry, et al. to
    ACTUAL STREET ART.

    What exit thru the gift shop has achieved, in elevating
    Guetta’s work over Banksy’s , is the official end note
    of considering actual Graffiti artists as gallery worthy
    material.

    Or it’s elevated them to the level of prophets/saints.

    Take your pick, but – please, don’t be spreading this
    idea that Warhol is actually more raw & essential a reference
    point than the Graffiti artists that inspired Banksy & Ferry etc.’s
    approach.

    On a lighter note, thank you for pointing out that Warhol would never
    be caught dead greeting his patrons at a free show at the door, making
    sure they each got their promised ‘free original print’.

    To Guetta’s credit, he’s probably the most benevolent pop artist that’s
    ever existed!

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