After peeping this wallsONwords post in Hollywood, I went to see “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a movie by Banksy, world-renowned street artist. I left feeling kinda empty w/ Banksy hating on the monster (MBW, I’m loath to type) he helped create. To be sure, Banksy’s clever. What started as graffiti has turned highbrow social commentary; a reluctant — but still — cross-over artist. He’s made it.
At the end of the film Banksy explains that he used to encourage all of his friends to create art. And now, with his unwitting protege MBW showing in standing room only galleries, he says that he no longer gives that advice. This is where he sort of lost me. Yeah, MBW’s artwork is vapid — created by graphic / set designers he recruited from a Craigslist ad — with little resonance. (I should note that I used to see the Alfred Hitchcock-esque “Life Is Beautiful” images heading to / fro teaching yoga on Monday nights. I found them more creepy than evocative.) But, it’s art. Who cares if it’s good? Isn’t the point to create, to express? I don’t think Banksy, having accepted more than $1M from Angelina Jolie, is in a position to make a statement about art’s commoditization. I may not like MBW’s work, but more power to him if hipsters (e.g. Madonna) are consuming it like a plaid sale at H&M.
And this is when I started to feel duped. Isn’t this what cinema is made of? Your classic good vs. bad? Isn’t Banksy one of our time’s notable social commentators? I’ll save you the answer — he is. Which is why I’m now relegated to an anesthetized cynicism and a big fat, “Well played, Banksy. Well played.”