After finally finishing my pixel art DIY project, I was admittedly exhausted. However, I still managed to make my way to my 7 pm Spanish class and get their 15 minutes early. Classroom door locked, I began showing off the finished product to some of my classmates, telling them about the art blog I’m writing for the State Press.
It was then I got my first suggestion. One of my peers wanted me to review, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a 2010 documentary surrounding the birth and growth of underground or “street” art. Taking him up on the offer, I logged into Netflix, typed in the title and watched it instantly. (For those of you without a Netflix account, it is available on YouTube as well – so long as you don’t mind the Spanish subtitles.) Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the film:
Thierry Guetta is a liar.
That being said, he is by far the best liar I have ever seen.
The film opens to the familiar sound of someone shaking a can of spray paint, followed by a series of clips showing street artists running and climbing, sometimes towards the perfect location, sometimes away from the cops. Sirens whirring in the background, the forbidden nature of these artists’ careers is evident.
But who is Thierry Guetta? Guetta is a French business-owner and a family man; but even the nature of his business is a sham. He finds old, designer-brand clothing and sells it for exceedingly ridiculous prices to “chic” and “vintage-loving” Los Angeles dwellers. But the truly strange thing about him is he always carries around a video camera.
From the dollar store to his cousin’s house, Guetta films unceasingly – something those close to him eventually get used to. This includes his cousin, better known as the street artist Space Invader. Taking pieces of discarded Rubik’s cubes and turning them into pixel art, Guetta’s cousin is inspired by – you guessed it – the popular ‘80s arcade game Space Invaders. Gluing the tiles to random bridges and light posts around Paris, Space Invader’s work quickly began spreading all around the city.
Thus, Guetta became obsessed with filming him. After a while however, he needed more. Seeking out other street artists located around the world, he began unknowingly filming the beginning of a movement. Some of the artists liked being filmed, other didn’t. But to Guetta it didn’t matter – he needed that footage.
Unfortunately, Guetta didn’t know what was truly fueling his obsession. He wasn’t a filmmaker (even if he told some of the artists he was) and all he was doing with the tapes was storing them in boxes – often not even labeling them.
Nevertheless, he pressed forward, seeking the best of the best in the world of street art; specifically one London artist: Banksy. If you’ve
seen any street art online, it’s probably Banksy’s. He’s most noted for his posters and sculptures left around London and a blow-up inmate doll he set up next to Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
While it was Guetta who sought out Banksy, it was Banksy who ultimately turned the cameras on Guetta. The documentary takes a turn after the two meet, suddenly focusing more on Guetta and his story more than the world of street art. The film depicts just how far someone can go with enough risk-taking and debt-accumulating as viewers watch Guetta become what some see as the biggest hoax in art history.
With more plot and drama than any other documentary I’ve seen, the film focuses on human growth more than the initial subject of art. It shows just how easily people can be duped and manipulated in order for someone (who’s crazy enough) to achieve success. The only downfall of the film is the dizzying camera angles because Guetta quite obviously has no professional experience.
Worth a watch even if you’re not an art connoisseur, Exit Through The Gift Shop is not only thought-provoking but also has quite a bit of eye candy.