Exit through the Gift Shop
If the name Banksy doesn’t ring a bell (it didn’t to me), perhaps you’ll remember his work on the Palestine-Israel Wall. The Guardian, which reported on the work, also described his mixed feelings about the Wall:
Although the paintings themselves are not overtly political, his feelings about the wall are apparent from his statement: “The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin Wall and will eventually run for over 700km – the distance from London to Zurich. The wall is illegal under international law and essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison.”
But he concedes: “It also makes it the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers.”
Banksy’s film starts as a documentary about Street Art, but it slowly morphs into a hilarious– “Funny as hell“– and subtle retelling of an old and oft-repeated story: The Prince and the Pauper, Vice Versa, Freaky Friday, Trading Places. The protagonist in this telling becomes Thierry Guetta, the man who shot most of the footage on the graffiti writers featured in the film.
Peppered throughout the film are the subtle digs Banksy takes at Thierry. Thierry is portrayed as a mixture of eccentric, dunce, and megalomaniac. The irony is that Banksy and his cohorts were the ones that provide (unintentionally, it seems) Thierry the credibility needed to join them in Arena B. By reediting the film to omit some of these details, it would be just as easy to paint Thierry as avant-garde, genius, and “force of nature.”
Thankfully, Banksy crafts the story in such a way that the Art World’s equivalent of The Hoax plays itself out. As we exit, I’m not sure where my laughter is directed, but I am definitely laughing.