Monday, May 10, 2010

The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game

Saw and loved street artist Banksy's acclaimed new film,"Exit Through the Gift Shop," on Saturday night in Chelsea. What began as a purported documentary about street artists by serial videographer Thierry Guetta became a riveting if completely head-scratching and somewhat disillusioning film by Banksy, who turns the camera on his bizarre "friend" with the camera -- who now goes by Mr. Brainwash -- after telling him to return home and "make his own art" only to see the art world roll out the red carpet for him, despite the fact that he may not be an artist at all. You almost have to see it to believe it. But if a clothing-store proprietor with no experience whatsoever can simply hire dozens of assistants to assemble hundreds of pieces of "art" -- almost entirely blatant ripoffs of already-iconic works by other artist -- and then generate massive publicity for himself, it makes you question what the meaning of art really is. If Andy Warhol was merely the foreman at an uninspired art factory, as many critics claim, Mr. Brainwash is the really annoying guy who works in the mailroom who won't shut up about himself when he comes by with his deliveries. (Extra kudos to Banksy for introducing me to Richard Hawley, whose lush pop anthem "Tonight the Streets Are Ours" bookends the film.)

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