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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Banksy, Where's the Gift Shop?

I had the pleasure of seeing Banksy's new movie Exit Through the Gift Shop a few days ago.  Banksy is a British street artist who is well-known for his graffiti take on anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment themes.

I think if William Morris had lived today he would have been a big fan of the anonymous and pseudonymous Banksy.  He shared the same strong anti-war, anti-capitalistic views, views which of course led Morris to become one of the founding father's of the British socialist movement.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of those movies that stays with you for days afterward as you try to unravel and decipher the message and meaning of the "story".....specifically, was it all an elaborate joke and if so, on whom?

As we left the movie, my friend and I both wondered "Where was the gift shop?" ---it was never shown or mentioned in movie (Banksy escaping museum guards, for instance?).  Upon reflection, an obvious interpretation is that Banksy is commenting on the commercialization of art and how it is all a large money-making undertaking that ultimately corrupts the point of the art.  Go to the gift shop and get your William Morris mug or Monet umbrella....take home your bit of kitsch and leave your dollars, euros, pesos, yen behind.  But then I thought maybe it goes even deeper, and that Mr Brain Wash's one-man show was the gift shop.  For a street artist, the world is the "museum".  Maybe Banksy set up MBW in this large space reproducing hundreds of kitschy spin-offs of real art, and was able to so perfectly manipulate the LA art scene that he had hundreds (thousands?) of people lining up in the "museum" (outside) to exit through the gift shop where they bought the derivative crap.  

I realize you can't really follow this without seeing the movie but I'm still left wondering if MBW (Thierry) was a willing, perfect, unwitting pawn of Banksy's or an integral co-conspirator?  Thierry seemed so utterly and genuinely daft it is hard for me to imagine anyone being that good an actor.

Wall and Piece is an entertaining retrospective of Banksy's work.  My teenage son loved it.

Wall and Piece