Art, Features April 22, 2010 By Nika Carlson

Films stills courtesy of Paranoid Pictures

Banksy, Studio Interior. Films stills courtesy of Paranoid Pictures

exitthrough title Exit through the Giftshop

Bansky, the famed British street artist whose identity is a closely guarded secret, is a known trickster and provocateur. He gained early attention for hanging his pieces in major museums on the sly, placing them next to the work of masters, and later caused controversy by featuring a live, painted elephant in one of his shows. His newest piece, a documentary called Exit Through the Gift Shop, is another head scratcher, following street art’s evolution from graffitti’s progeny to fine art’s younger brother in a movie that questions not just street art, but art itself.
     The film purports to document the life of Thierry Guetta, a French expat who through his obsession with filming everything stumbles upon the burgeoning street art scene. He is introduced to it by a cousin known as Space Invader, and in the course of his adventures meets the scene’s biggest players, including Shepard Fairey of “Obey” fame, and, eventually, Bansky. Guetta, our guide, is the comic relief — a naif asking innocent and frankly stupid questions of the street art superheroes with whom he becomes friends — filming, lending a hand, and occasionally spilling buckets of paint.
     The film takes a critical turn when Guetta drops the video camera and picks up a brush. He does so at the urging of Bansky, who makes the suggestion when he sees the disastrous documentary Guetta has produced from his near decade of street art footage.