Promulgated as the world's first street art disaster movie, Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop informs you of just how easily an underground phenomenon can be sugar-coated for the masses craving chocolate covered raisins as opposed to just raisins (it's an analogy, work with me here).
Initially, Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash sets out on a whimsical crusade to document the surge of street art/graffiti in various parts of Europe and Los Angeles. But as the digressive personality of Guetta seeps into the content of the footage, he starts to become aware that perhaps he might have been in over his head in making the declaration to several well-known street artists, including Shepard Fairey, the mind behind "Andre the Giant has a posse," that he was making a documentary chronicling the explosion of the graffiti movement. Enter Banksy, the answer to the recent void in British vicissitude in the absence of Blur, who stepped in after watching the rough cut of what Guetta had planned to release as a film.
Banksy, concealed throughout the film by a hooded sweatshirt or a Cops-esque scramble around his face, confirms that Exit Through the Gift Shop is not Gone With the Wind, but there's probably a moral to be found somewhere in it. What that moral turns out to be is: People will consume whatever you're selling, as long as it is packaged correctly. Mr. Brainwash had the resources, the word of mouth, and the support of one of the most revered artists of the moment. His art is more processed and unoriginal than Andy Warhol's, and yet, people are drawn to the combination of its superficiality and its popularity. One such art collector in the movie owned artwork from any artist ever deemed "major," at one point showing a drawing from Keith Haring who she admits, "I don't even like." Bitch, then why do you own one of his paintings? Because someone told you that it was worth something and that you were supposed to like it.
Mr. Brainwash's unbelievable propulsion into art world renown resulted in the ultimate measure of success, being commissioned by pop culture beacon Madonna to create the cover art for her greatest hits album Celebration. Not only that, but it allowed for a two-month exhibition of "Life is beautiful," where inhabitants of L.A. were lured by a cover story from LA Weekly called "Mr. Brainwash Bombs L.A.," but, as one patron of the arts put it, "It's one of those things where I'm not sure why I'm here, I just know I'm excited." That seems to be the fundamental sentiment at the core of the film. Half the time, people don't take action of their own willingness, they take action because of suggestion, because of propagandist coercion.