Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film

O Banksy! Is there another human being on the planet even remotely as cool? There was Kurt Cobain I suppose. There is Miranda July. Dave Eggers. David Thorne. And maybe my friend Gautam. So I guess there are people nearly as cool. But not many. Maybe like eight people. Exit Through the Gift Shop you are the bee’s knees. You are the apple of my eye! I cannot imagine a more impressive project nipping at the asses of the artistry-commodity complex.

So here is how I conceive of your creation: Over a million dollars worth of counterfeit art was sold in a demonstration of the American art buyers’ naivete. When I say counterfeit I do not mean merely that the art purchased from Mr. Brainwash’s exhibition was constructed to simulate the look, value and effect of actual street art. I also mean that the intellectual work that is generally understood to precede the production of art was absent.

That is, generally there is a trust manifested between an art buyer and an artist that the artist will have agonized critically over the piece she/he is selling. She will have conceived of an idea, figured the most novel and effective way of portraying it, then rendered it masterfully. Furthermore the piece is a selection – that idea has been given precedent over all other ideas. That rendering has been put on a pedestal over other renderings. One might consider J.A.M. Whistler’s quote –

Holker: “The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?”
Whistler: “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.”

This is why the reputation/credibility of the artist becomes valuable. A consumer is paying for intellectual work they do not have to perform themselves (but trust is there). And they can pleasure themselves to those clever ideas. Or they can pleasure themselves to others believing they are clever since they are hanging said canvas upon their wall (i.e. they have demonstrated a modicum of critical work simply by selecting one print over another). The sheer volume of Guetta’s (Mr. Brainwash’s) work turns this into a farce. In order to create ‘unique’ prints, Guetta can be seen wheeled by, crudely splattering paint across identical prints ala grade-school understanding of Jackson Pollock. The artwork beneath the retarded Pollock is an enfeebled impression of Andy Warhol and a mashup (i.e. a plagiarism) of ideas Guetta lifted from studying legitimate street artists.

There is a trick being enacted on the art buyers within Exit. The impression that viable intellectual work has gone into the art is falsehood. Talented artists were no doubt enlisted to create Brainwash’s vision, but the leader at the helm was a monkey. Mr. Brainwash’s reputation was rapidly fabricated on novelty – the way of William Hung or Susan Boyle. This sort of fame is actually sort of cruel since the trait that draws people’s attention is the subject’s sheer lack of likability.

Whether the whole thing is a hoax or if Guetta is simply mentally-ill doesn’t matter. His credit card was still able to produce a rampage of contrived, defaced advertisements that sold like hotcakes. And the people who bought them end up some strange, laughing Ouroboros. The artwork is not counterfeit because it is unreal. On the contrary, its massive size announces itself like a fat kid wearing a superhero outfit. The artwork is merely counterfeit because Banksy’s film strips the intellectual and artistic capitol that was previously attached to it. The multiple layers of illusion being played with here just makes it all the sweeter. Tremendously ingenious . . . $11

If you heart Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film

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