I watched a fantastic movie last night called “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. It’s kind of a documentary about a documentary really. A french transplant to L.A. and amateur videographer named Thierry Guetta had gotten interested in street art and began following around graffiti artists with his camera in order to make a documentary. Eventually he meets a highly secretive artists named Bansky.
Now Bansky is the king of street art because nobody has ever seen his face and his “work”, or graffiti if you will, has appeared on structures all over the world. So there this huge mystique around him. Well, Thierry befriends Bansky and becomes his sidekick, documenting his work.
At one point, the street art culture hits mainstream and street art starts selling big. Bansky tells Thierry it’s time to cut that video together and finish the documentary. So Thierry goes away for six months and comes back with an atrocious piece of video that really doesn’t document anything. It’s basically garbage, because Thierry really wasn’t anything more than some guy who could afford a camera. So Bansky tells him to take off and persue his own street art and let him cut the film together. This is where the documentary gets interesting.
Theirry goes off and begins doing street art. Now mind you, Thierry is not an “artist”. He’s never done street art. But he’s watched all the best guys do it. So he copies their techniques. Eventually he starts getting publicity and he decides he’s going to have a giant art show like the big boys. So he mortgages his house, rents out a giant building in L.A., hires a bunch of artists and starts having them put together prints and art pieces. He creates a buzz so big that by the time his gallery opens there’s thousands of people in line to see his “work”. The guy makes millions of dollars and even ends up creating the album cover for Modonna’s greatest hits album.
The funniest part of all this is that the “real” artists, are totally pissed at Thierry. Basically this guy comes out of nowhere, with no talent whatsoever, other than extreme confidence, and becomes the biggest artist in L.A. in less than a year. He didn’t even make his own art! He paid other guys to make it for him based on his “vision”.
It’s hilarious because Bansky and these other “artists” really were doing the same thing, they just hadn’t done it as well. Thierry was simply able to cut through the artist ego holding those guys back, and just go for pure market manipulation. The guy is really brilliant.
So basically what I came away with from this movie is that art is crap. The art itself means absolutely nothing. It’s not about talent, or vision, or technique or any of that. What it really comes down to is the image of the artist and what’s hot and trendy right now. Because people in the art culture just want to hang with the cool kids. They want to feel important, and smarter than everyone else. They want to gossip about the latest and greatest. So if an artist creates enough buzz around himself to be considered super cool or mysterious, he could sh*t on a plate and put a cherry on top and it would sell for a million dollars. Thierry proved this without a doubt because that’s exactly what he did.
So I know I gave a lot of the movie away, but I suggest you rent it anyway. Then, go out and start making “art”.