Infamous street artist Banksy is exploring a new medium: film. His (faux?) documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, was a huge hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, though it did not appear anywhere on the official festival schedule. On April 14, the film opened in both Manhattan and Los Angeles, and it will continue to open in limited release through May. Exit Through the Gift Shop explores the glorified graffiti genre known as “street art,” focusing on one artist, French expatriate Thierry Guetta. While reactions to the film were overwhelmingly positive, audiences left viewings confused. Is Guetta a real artist? Is he even a real person? Is the film just another Banksy hoax? Banksy appears in the film (one of only a few times his image has been captured and publicized), but he is veiled and his voice is disguised, leading some to wonder if the man claiming to be Thierry Guetta may actually be Banksy himself.
Banksy is perhaps the most well-known name in the up-and-coming street art culture, despite the fact that no one really knows who he is. Originally from England, Banksy now travels the world leaving his mark on walls, sidewalks, and billboards, all under the veil of night. Impressively, while street art is illegal, Banksy has yet to be caught for any of his works, somehow managing to insert pieces into neighborhoods, museums, and even Disneyland without his identity being discovered.
With a focus on pop culture and politics, Banksy uses stencils to create most of his street pieces, though he has used sculpture, painting, and found objects as well. In the fall of 2008, Banksy held his first official New York exhibition, entitled “Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill,” in the West Village. Featuring mainly animatronic “animals,” the exhibit explored the ways in which humans exploit and interact with animals, showing caged meat products, bunnies using makeup, and a strangely life-like fur coat.
Now, nearly two years later, Banksy has returned to New York, on film and in the streets, with new pieces popping up throughout the city as a clever and compelling marketing campaign. Catch Exit Through the Gift Shop at Landmark Sunshine Cinema in the East Village, and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas at Lincoln Center.
Emily Mousseau GS ’10