Documentary review: Exit through the gift shop (2010)

I enjoyed the playful Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop". I wasn't quite sure what to make of it afterwards. Certainly lingers in your mind.

About how we define art. What is art? Who should be allowed to create it? Who owns it? What is the purpose of art? Can anything be considered art, and has the word become meaningless? Has hype triumphed over talent in the art world? Is art more intriguing, the less (or more) you know about the artist? All these philosophical questions are indicated tacitly, we get to think for ourselves.

Besides being art about art, the doc also works as a glimpse into the world of street art and graffiti artists, and how they create, think and operate.

I think Mr. Brainwash's (Thierry Guetta’s) actions raised some interesting questions. If you mainly make art for money, is that always bad, if people like it? Art doesn't need to be original or even good, for some it's all about what's hot. Can good art be created out of this system?

But I doubt his art will have a lasting value, so in that way I think he will lose in the long run, but you never know, art is a fickle thing. Just look at Andy Warhol, he could get away with anything just by adding his name to it ( :

I recently read a youtube-thread about a singer's voice, although technically good, was emotionally boring. If there's no passion, or a feeling of rip-off, it will kill some of the audience. Kind of the same thing with Mr. Brainwash, who is clearly mass-producing imitations of Warhol. Although, as art is always subjective, some meaning can always be attributed to something.

The doc has also sparked a debate about the enigmatic and reclusive artist Bansky, who maybe, or maybe not directed this film as a hoax. I would have to see it again, to make my mind up about that. Probably only he knows himself. Bansky definitely keeps the mystique surrounding his identity alive. You can no doubt compare it to Joaquin Phoenix's I’m still here (2010), but something tells me we won’t get a definitive answer anytime soon considering Bansky’s record. As it might be a mockumentary, we are not sure Mr. Brainwash even exists! This obviously adds to the recent hype of the documentary. You could argue it doesn’t matter if its true or not, as the film either way is rewarding. Then again, as my blogging buddy the audient points out, every documentary ever made editorializes. Merely the act of choosing what footage to show is distorting reality.

I recommend reading the message board on IMDB for more on the ambiguities.

Highly recommended, and good luck at the Oscars! It may be too controversial to win? Who knows.

By the way, if you’re interested in the nature of art and mainstream entertainment, you should check out my review of Torture the artist
After watching Exit through the gift shop, the line between art and vandalism has definitely become blurred for me!



Readers, any thoughts?


  1. As much as I found Mr. Brainwash annoying, I enjoyed Exit Through the Gift Shop. Maybe my comparison will be too shallow, but it reminds me of how every once in a few years a good musician (or band) comes up with his creative and innovative ideas, and redefines the whole genre he performs in, and then all the less-talented musicians try to copy him and turn his ideas into pop culture. Talking about what's real, and what's not in this documentary, who ever said that choosing what footage to show distorts reality had a point.

  2. @ Minoccio : Thanks for the comment, yes, the film really gets you thinking about our culture, doesn't it. I think what you say about the music buisness applies to many areas,in movies for example, Bond inspired Austin powers, and that inspired johnny english. The succes of "The Queen" with Helen Mirren no doubt made "the kings speech" happen.

  3. Maybe it's only normal to try and want to cash in on something (that worked for Andy Warhol), so perhaps I'm being too harsh on Mr Brianwash in my review ( :
    He after all has the right to do what he wants with his exibition.

    It does get a bit murky if it was illigal street art, though.

  4. Yeah he had a right to do what he did, but he still is annoying. I don't have a problem with one artist being inspired by another artist, but what Mr Brainwash did was simply copying.


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