Milwaukee, like any big city, is full of graffiti. It’s evident on buildings, train cars, billboards, even street signs. The law may say that this is defacement of public property, but many consider it an art form. To street artists, graffiti isn’t a juvenile act of vandalism, but a form of self expression for the world to see. Exit Through the Gift Shop is an in-depth look into their world and one particularly odd man who accidently found himself at the center of their scene.
Thierry Guetta is a little French man living in the Los Angeles area. He centered his life around the video camera, capturing every waking moment of his existence. The camera became a part of him and an obsession; however his passion had no direction until he met up with his cousin filming him as he perfected his street art.
Known as Space Invader for his depiction of classic arcade games, Thierry recorded his cousin around the city as he posted his art in the middle of the night. Thierry also served as a look out for Space Invader and it all seemed innocent enough.
Thierry suddenly found himself at the center of the street art scene, introduced to all of the best street artists including Shepard Fairey, creator of the Obama Hope image. He filmed their every move. He was around some of the biggest street artists around, all except for one.
Until one day he was finally introduced to Banksy, probably the most famous street artist in the world. Thierry called himself a filmmaker, which made Banksy very hesitant because of the work he did and his image. But like the rest of them, Banksy became comfortable with Thierry and allowed him to carry out his passion.
After countless hours of filming and hundreds of tapes to go through, Thierry felt pressure from Banksy and the other street artists for the film that depicted their love. Problem was, Thierry wasn’t a real filmmaker, just loved the camera. His project was a complete disaster, but all the footage was there.
Banksy asked if he could take a shot at it while Thierry worked on his street art, something that he dabbled in after following some of the greatest in the world.
And this is the theme of Exit Through the Gift Shop. Directed by Banksy, he takes a different direction with the film, focusing on Thierry himself as a street artist. Full of interviews with Banksy, Space Invader, Fairey and others it questions if Thierry is a legitimate artist or just a monster they created.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, it’s a wonderful piece showing a behind-the-scenes look into one of the most well kept secrets in art and one of the most mysterious men in the business, Banksy. Centered around Thierry, aka Mr. Brainwash, Exit Through the Gift Shop is the most entertaining documentary there was this year with such a bizarre ending.