Monday, February 1, 2010

From Basquiat to Banksy.

I gotta give the Sundance programmers credit for the Friday night programming at the Tower Theater.  They put two films back to back that some how made for a perfect cinematic evening.  It started with Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (see my previous post) which was followed by Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy's first feature length film.  The two films together were like a mini tutorial of street art turned fine art.

Banky's film is presented as a documentary in which a French filmmaker (Thierry Guetta) follows the street artist (and other street artists like Invader and Shepard Fairey) in the hopes of making a great movie.  But when the first cut turns out to be a disaster, Banksy recommends that Thierry give up filmmaking and become a street artist.  Thierry does just that and is soon creating work that rockets him into art stardom.

However I'd bet a lot of money that this is no documentary but is instead Banksy up to his usual antics of shaking up the establishment.  I say that for two reasons.  First, Banksy's own admission that everything in the movie is true "except the parts that aren't."  Second, by the time you get to the end of the movie, the interviews with Bansky and Fairey just aren't believable.

I almost wish this had been a real documentary. My favorite parts of the film followed street artists Invader, Fairey, and Bansky as they take their art to the streets.  It was really interesting to see how these artists work within their urban galleries.  And even though Banksy pans the work of Thierry Guetta (whose street name is Mr. Brainwash), I liked alot of the art.  And I'd bet money that it was all created by Banksy himself.  The posters that mashed Warhol's Marylin with pop culture icons like Michael Jackson and Leonard Nimoy were ingenius as were the Campbell soup spray paint cans.  I also liked the way Banksy commandeered Damien Hirst's spot paintings.  They almost made sense within the context of street art.

I'd recommend this movie to anyone remotely interested in the instersection of street art and fine art.  And I'm certainly glad it made it to Sundance, since Banksy followed.  I can't imagine any thing else that would bring the elusive artist to Salt Lake City and Park City where left behind a few reminders of his existence.  I'll have a post on that soon.

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