“Exit Through the Gift Shop ” Documentary Movie Review

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary movie which presents the process of creation of unique works of contemporary street art.  Along with rare filming of creation of street art, the movie presents the story of life of the author of the original footage. The movie is produced by an anonymous street artist named Banksy. Banksy uses footage made by an ordinary French man, who spent several years filming everything he met on his way, including rare works of street art.  The name of the movie is very informative. It gives an allusion to the contemporary attitudes to art and culture. When people leave a museum, they usually must pass through the gift shop.  In the gift  shop different souvenirs and copies of famous works of art are usually sold. The name of the movie uses the metaphor of the gift shop in order to illustrate commercial approach to contemporary art. In many cases art becomes only a mean of earning money. People who produce outstanding works of art stay unknown and have to put odds and ends. At the same time people, who use commercial approach, make art an object of commerce and earn their fortune selling art works of low quality.  In general, the name of the movie became a metaphor for people who speculate on art and gain their profit exploiting  artists.

Gift shop is not presented in the movie directly. Though Thierry Guetta, the protagonist of the documentary, owns a small shop in France.  This could be an allusion to him as a figure who makes use of people of art for his own profit. 

The gift shop usually assumes the presence of the museum. In the movie there is no definite building, where works of art are exhibited. The museum becomes rather an abstract notion, because street artists use ordinary objects, such as walls, roofs and other parts of exterior to create their masterpieces. While speaking about street art, it becomes possible to speak about new defitition of art and new meaning of art and culture. Dr. Larry Shiner in his article  named  Primitive Fakes speaks about new definition of art and artist: ” ‘Artist’ implies innovation, individualism, and a devotion to Art as a vocation, and ‘Aesthetic’ suggests disinterested appreciation” (Shiner 225). This definition differs from the one, applied to art in the past. At the present moment expression, innovation and authenticity  become  distinguishing symbols of the contemporary art. At this point street art can be recognized as an art, because it fits the definition.  Street art  doest not have a definite place of exposition. It appears anywhere at the street, but the effect of the gift shop is still presented in this kind of art.  There are people who want to make use of artworks and who treat art not as a mean of self-expression and creating an emotional message, but rather as a mean to fulfill their selfish ambitions.

Street artists are the main producers of art objects in the movie. Banksy, the producer of the movie and other street artists take part in the movie, which documents  the process of creation of their street art objects.  The movie shows works  and the process of creation of street art by such artists as Neck Face Poster Boy, Seizer, Cyclops, Sweet Toof, Ron English, Azil, Borf,  Dotmasters, Swoon, and Buffmonster.

Banksy, the  creator of the movie,  makes an attempt to present graffiti  a part of contemporary art. He shows street art from inside and wants to prove that street art possesses all characteristics of conventional art. Contemporary world goes through major changes and transformations nowadays. Art and culture also undergo changes. Art and culture do not exist separately from people.  Changes in the mentality of people  are  reflected in new forms of art, which appear in the contemporary society.  

As mentioned about Banksy uses museum as a metaphor of the contemporary business approach to art. Museum in the movie is rather a concept of social control, which exist in all spheres, including art. Same as in the case with the gift shop, where non-professionals manipulate museum visitors making them     buy things which in reality are not art objects, society  and critics define norms of art and limit artists in freedom of expression. Banksy, the author of the movie, dedicated a lot of time to prove that graffiti  is a form of art. He had to disguise his personality in order not to be judged for vandalism. In the movie Banksy shows that street art is an original and outstanding mean of self-expression.   Specialists, who explore phenomenon of street art  distinguish different aspects of graffiti art:  “initially, motivations for street art included its aesthetic appeal and shared peer activity. However, as this art continued, its motivations began to include pride, pleasure, and recognition. Ultimately, street art is a form of “Identity Art” which reflects the motivations of its creators” (Fine 155).  This way, graffiti can be viewed as a means of self-expression and thus can be considered as a form of art. Graffiti artists know that their art will not last for a long time. They also know that their works can be easily ruined by different factors, but still, they spend time and effort creating their works of art.  In addition, they receive no money for their works. Pleasure of creating something authentic and meaningful become the main motivation for them.  At this point street art becomes a challenge to the entire system of commercial art, which became  nothing but a way of earning money.

Terry, the protagonist of the movie, has enough means to live a careless life. In the beginning of the movie he is described as the owner of the shop and amateur cameraman. He shoots everything he meets on his way and finally becomes totally fascinated by work of street artists. He makes friends with Banksy and follows him everywhere, shooting the process of creation of his graffiti works.  Finally, Guetta decides to become a street artist himself. He uses the works by Banksy as inspiration and creates his own graffitis . His business approach helps him to reach certain success. He takes a pseudonym Mr.  Brainwash and not only creates street art objects, but also expands his business and includes the service of renting of copious equipment for production of graffiti.  Guetta changes amateur approach to business activity. Using his example, Banksy shows how authentic art can be transformed into pop-culture and mass production. After six months of his practice as graffiti artist, Guetta organizes a big show named Life is Beautiful. Unexpectedly, the show gets a tremendous success. In the process of preparation  Guetta gets so busy with interviews and  his popularity, that spends little time on the preparation of the show itself. Banksy has to send his assistants to help   organize the show.  Life is Beautiful got recognition and appreciation from public and critics. Events described in the movie had place in real life, which gives reasons to think about the credibility of the events described  in the movie.  Critics gave positive  feedback to the show. It even appeared on the front cover of LA weekly.  The show was extended from one month to three months because of its great success. People were ready to spend hours in a line in order to have the chance to see it.  Guetta’s style to great extend copies works by Banksy. He often received accusations of plagiarism, but still he insisted  that works belong to him and that he possessed a unique artistic style.

 Exit Through the Gift Shop is a unique documentary which investigates not only new forms of art, but also raises important questions of goals of art in general.  Banksy and Guetta at some point become two opposites.  It may seem that they do same thing, when they create their art objects, but they pursue different goals and thus produce totally different products. At this point Guetta’s popularity becomes an  illustration of commercial approach to art and manipulations which exist in the contemporary art.

Works Cited

Debruge, Peter. “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Variety. 15–21 Feb. 2010: 28. Web.

Fine, Gary Allan. “Crafting Authenticity: The Validation of Authenticity in Self-Taught Art.” Theory and Society 32.2 (April 2003): 153–80. Web.

Leidtka, Jean. “Strategy Making and the Search for Authenticity.” Journal of Business Ethics 80 (2008): 237–48. Web.

Phillips, David. Exhibiting Authenticity. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. Print.

Shiner, Larry. “’Primitive Fakes,’ ‘Tourist Art,’ and the Ideology of Authenticity.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 52.2 (Spring 1994): 225–34. Web.

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[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: September 29, 2020]