Exit Through the Gift Shop is my favorite film of 2010 so far. It succeeds on so many levels (documentary, comedy, history lesson, creative inspiration, head scratcher, etc) and stands among the best films about art that I've ever seen (others include Summer Hours, My Kid Could Paint That, and Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time).
Centered around Banksy and the street art world that he currently rules, Exit is a rare film that actually opens up ones curiosity about the world and beckons you to learn more about its subject matter. Just try not to spend a good half hour or more on Wikipedia after you see this movie.
I recently wrote a piece about the film for Image Journal's "Good Letters" blog, which you can read in its entirety here.
Here's a little excerpt:
So much of Exit Through the Gift Shop is shrouded in mystery. The documentary film’s (purported) creator, Banksy, is an elusive British graffiti artist whose identity is unknown, even though he’s the darling of the international art world who routinely sells screen prints for six figure prices. In his first foray into film, Banksy presents us with a characteristically enigmatic but well-executed piece of pop art, billed as “the world’s first Street Art disaster movie.”
By the end of the film—which is ostensibly about the street art movement—most viewers are left wondering how much, if any, of what they just saw was real. Certainly this was Banksy’s intent. For him, art is always something of a Warhol-meets-Baudrillard prank that questions reality, subverts the art establishment, or turns the table on the dilettante consumer. His street/installation art (whether it be a live painted elephant in the middle of a room, or a Guantánamo blow-up doll smuggled into Disneyland) tends to push the envelope and make people ask themselves “is this art or is it just a joke?”
To which Banksy would probably retort: “What’s the difference?” [read the rest...]