The Banksy movie isn’t really about Banksy

Last night I went to the LA premiere of “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a film by renowned artist Bansky, who does appear in the film, but its main focus is on a man named Thierry Guetta. LA-based Guetta relentlessly documented many of the artists in the film—Shepard Fairey, Space Invader and Banksy—to name a few, but the real drama starts when Guetta decides to put down his camera and become the artist known as “Mr. Brainwash.” Then Banksy turns the camera on him.

Much of this film is set in Los Angeles, showing footage of these guys putting up work that I drove by often (like Banksy’s piece on Beverly Blvd featured above), and many of them still are part of the landscape here in LA. In other words, this film hit close to home. Frankly, it was a little bizarre to see people that I have worked with or met at art openings or know through friends of friends up on the big screen. When I worked at New Image Art Gallery from 2004-2007, I met a lot of the artists featured in the film. For example, one day Space Invader came in the gallery undercover. He told us his name was Frank. Sure. In hindsight, we should have realized that Frank is not really a French name! Anyway, he bought several pieces by Neckface and was good company for an hour or so, going through the gallery’s flat files with his cigarette dangling over all the artwork. He sent an email later telling us who he was….I guess he fooled us. It was around that time that a lot of his artwork started appearing all over Los Angeles.

After the film, milling around the gorgeous Los Angeles Theater and enjoying the free drinks and dancing “police officers,” I was talking to a friend, who’s an artist and designer who works for Fairey. He commented how the movie made it all seem so glamorous, but in real life it’s not so glamorous. That kind of sums it up…

But I do think the film captures the gold rush-like frenzy of the art bubble back in 2005 or 2006 before the crash. I remember seeing the posters for Guetta’s show around LA, and I avoided it like the plague. He was clearly ripping off so many people, I couldn’t take it. The fact that “Mr. Brainwash” (Guetta) could emerge out of nowhere, put on a huge art show accompanied by a fierce PR campaign and sell a million dollars worth of art in a couple of weeks says a lot. People had so much money back then, they were stupid. Or else Guetta is just a really smart businessman. But what happens to the art when the market gets so bloated? I’m not sure if “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a cautionary tale or a comedy. Maybe it’s both, but whatever it is, it’s definitely worth watching.

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~ by Valerie Palmer on April 14, 2010.

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