Banksy Exit Through the Gift Shop

We are firmly entrenched in awards season, though it could just as well be called Banksy season.

The famously incognito British artist is getting all sorts of accolades for his film “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a documentary (or mock documentary, or neither) on a French filmmaker-turned-street artist, Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash. The film is nominated for a BAFTA Award, and recently won the top prize at the Cinema Eye Awards.

And now it can add an Oscar nod.

About Banksy

  • Birth name is unkown
  • Hails from Bristol, UK
  • Displays art on public surfaces worldwide 

The film was nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Documentary, Tuesday morning. And you can bet that until the winners are announced on February 27, there will be plenty of debate about whether or not the film deserves to be in that category.

Exit Through the Gift Shop” (which is available on Hulu) follows Guetta as he attempts to make his own documentary on street artists, including Banksy. But when Banksy realizes that Guetta isn’t much of a filmmaker, Banksy takes over as director, turning the camera on Guetta and telling the Frenchman to try his hand at art. Much to Banksy’s surprise, Guetta is an instant success.

The commentary on the fetishism and commercialism of contemporary art is so sharp and precise that some have said that the movie was carefully crafted as yet another Banksy prank, and not nonfiction at all. The artist, in a recent interview, claimed the movie is entirely true.

I guess I have to accept that people think I’m full of shit

“Obviously the story is bizarre, that’s why I made a film about it, but I’m still shocked by the level of skepticism,” he told All These Wonderful Things, a film blog. “I guess I have to accept that people think I’m full of shit. But I’m not clever enough to have invented Mr. Brainwash, even the most casual on-line research confirms that.”

There’s also the question of whether Banksy will attend the Oscars. The artist remains ever elusive. Jaime, D’Cruz, his fellow producer on “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” delivered Banksy’s speech at the Cinema Eye Awards.

“Now's not the time for long, rambling speeches,” Banksy wrote. “I'll leave that for the director of ‘Waiting for Superman.’”

He added, “It’s great to be recognized by people who are so obsessed with the documentary genre – in other words people who are even more socially retarded than myself.”

But apparently Banksy doesn’t need to be very social to stay in the spotlight. Earlier this month, several of his paintings and screenprints headlined the Bonhams Urban Art auction in London. The most notable of these was “Save or Delete Jungle Book,” which sold for around $121,000 and wasn’t without its share of controversy.

The painting was created for a 2001 Greenpeace campaign against deforestation and features several characters from Disney’s “Jungle Book,” sitting with their hands tied and eyes blindfolded in front of a hooded executioner. Several news outlets claimed that Disney prevented Greenpeace from using the image. But the environmental group claimed otherwise. In a blog post, it said it “used the image in all sorts of places” and “only withdrew after the campaign had run its natural course.”

Shortly after the Bonhams event, a seller on Ebay tried to auction off Banksy’s identity. The seller claimed to have matched up the “prices of his sold pieces to corresponding tax records.” Bidding went up to one million dollars before Ebay removed the listing because it said the seller didn’t abide by Ebay’s listing and user policies.

And for now Banksy remains in the strange position of being everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Exit Through The Gift Shop Trailer


Follow Richard S. Chang on Twitter: @r_s_c



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