Exit through the Gift Shop @ Melbourne

Exit through the Gift Shop @ Melbourne

630“A film about a man who tried to make a film about me”  –  Banksy

Exit Through The Gift Shop is the documentary which showcases some of the most talented individuals in an industry flourishing just outside the law. It is a magnificently entertaining, informative film filled with half-truths and practical jokes.

Like the very best pieces of street-art, the film is spectacularly original, ironically funny, defiantly independent and effortlessly cool, and the fact that the whole thing might be nothing more than an enormous prank by the world’s most renowned street-art not only makes the movie that much more interesting, but also reflects better than anything the elusive and rebellious art form that it supposedly documents.


“Ladies and gentlemen, and publicists: Trying to make a movie which truly conveys the raw thrill and expressive power of art is very difficult. So we haven’t bothered. Instead, this is simply an everyday tale of life, longing, and mindless vandalism. Everything you are about to see is true, especially the bit where we all lie. Thanks for coming, please don’t give away the ending on Twitter. And please, don’t try copying any of this stuff at home; wait until you get to work.”   –   Banksy

hosier lane, melbourne june, 2010

Continue on here to see images from the June, 2010 Melbourne premiere, VIP post party, and Film storyline synopsis 


Melbourne Opening night

The screening of Exit Through The Gift Shop, aka the Banksy Film, took place at the ACMI in June 2010.

Less a film about the street artiste himself and more a prankumentary on street art and the now iconic artists filling the ranks of the elite, the crowd cared little for the fact behind the flick, opting instead to enjoy the general celebration of counter-culture and the free booze.

The crowd was abuzz with just one question: “ do you think Banksy will show “ ?


Appropriately, the after party was staged around the corner from dedece melbourne’s showroom at Misty bar in the middle of Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane which have always been known for the Citylights Projects; add a little graffitti stencil work and a few Shepard Fairey posters and it made for a great event

Hosier Lane – the graffiti-covered alleyway that’s home to Misty Bar had been decked out for the party with CityLights  lightboxes featuring the work of Fairey. They were (and still are) there courtesy of , the not-for-profit installation project run by Andy Mac, who also runs the laneway gallery Until Never.


Mac’s gallery sits a couple of floors above Misty, down a side lane. On the brick wall that runs from Misty to the gallery door, there’s more Fairey — a huge mural of posters that includes, among other things, portraits of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Until Never show is fairly small but includes Fairey’s most famous piece — the Obama Hope poster — plus a four-part work created for a Levi’s campaign and pieces from his signature Obey series (a series that has also spawned a line of clothing).

The work inside the gallery has a price tag. The work on the street does not. Does that mean one lot has value and the other does not? And if so, which one is valuable, and in what way?

Is the work on the street more authentic, more “Shepard Fairey”, than that in the gallery, because it was created not for sale or for a commercial client, but for “pure” purposes? Does it matter that the work in the laneway was not put there by Fairey? Is it still “his”? And how much was it ever his anyway when so much of the imagery has been appropriated from pre-existing works? (Fairey is in fact still in a messy legal fight with the press agency AP over his use of the Obama image, in which the AP claims it held copyright.)

On his way to the opening of a massive retrospective of his work at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston last year, Fairey was arrested by police on outstanding graffiti charges. Feted artist and street hoodlum … on the very same night ( he never did make it to that opening ).

Film storyline

Banksy is used to fiercely guarding his identity to avoid prosecution, so it was perhaps no surprise when he refused to be filmed by an eccentric French shop owner named Thierry Guetta.

thierry guetta

Exit Through The Gift Shop traces Thierry’s attempts to capture the world of graffiti art in thrilling detail, following many of the most infamous figures at work in the streets. We trace Thierry’s efforts to locate and befriend Banksy only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner with spectacular results. An incendiary true story of low-level criminality, companionship and incompetence.

The story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is a movie that, we’re led to believe, came into being largely by accident. A second-hand clothes merchant, LA-based Frenchman Thierry Guetta, had spent a decade videotaping street artists ( it all begins when he discovers he’s related to the French artist Space Invader ) but had no idea what to do with the crates of tapes he’d accumulated.

The intial documentary maker is Thierry Guetta, a small french man with a compulsive disorder to film all that is around him. His obsession with keeping the camera rolling results in raw contact with some of the world’s most recognisable and sought after street artists. This guy has no idea how lucky he is!

His limited knowledge of street art etiquette favours him throughout the process as he persues highly popular street artists such as Invader, Shepard Fairey and even Banksy.

Banksy is interviewed throughout the documentary with his own take on it’s evolution. The quick wittedness that he presents both in his street art and published statements is clearly also a verbal gift as we finally get to hear him speak.

When Guetta makes a hash of his attempt to edit the footage into a film, Banksy takes over, and instead makes a film about Guetta from the the thousands of un-edited tapes Guetta had been hoarding.

Banksy devises a plan to distract Guetta by suggesting he holds his own solo exhibition.

Guetta enlists a small team of artists to turn his “ideas” into work, the show is a smash, and the former ragtrader — now known by his alias MBW (aka Mr Brainwash) — makes a motza.

“As it turns out, I think we might have a film that does for street art what  ” Jaws’ did for waterskiing.”  “ –  Banksy

Moral of the story?       Anyone can do it …….. The art world is gullible ………. Don’t believe the hype………. All art is appropriation……….  The author is dead…….. Authenticity schmauthenticity…….  etc 

The real risk of the work being removed adds a different sense of permanency to the pieces.

Don’t just pass them, stop and look, really look, soak them in; keep them in the memory, for tomorrow they may well be gone.

Of course much of Banksy’s work is stenciled and can be repeated elsewhere and any new work is photographed immediately and extensively.

There is an irony to the fact they are regarded as graffiti, as disposable when other mediums make his work so very permanent.

Click on this image to read all about the Melbourne laneways project

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