Questioning Authenticity in Exit Through the Gift Shop

Throughout the film, there are various indicators that call into question the authenticity of Exit Through the Gift Shop and its protagonist, filmmaker turned street artist Thierry Guetta. Primary for me was Guetta’s personality, specifically when he can’t clearly delineate his love of art and motivations behind what he is doing (while Banksy provides a much more descriptive account). Furthermore, his broken English, and aloof, happy-go-lucky demeanor put him in stark contrast to the comportment of Banksy and most other artists shown. Next, as the film progressed, it became harder and harder for me to ascribe a thesis or main theme. Initially, it seems to be this rare perspective on a form of art and artist that, by nature, is usually quit reserved. Yet as it continued, Guetta’s obsession turned into a veritable career, and so then Banksy began documenting Theirry. Third, Guetta’s rise to success in the art world was meteoric. He had little formal training, yet broke into a realm that seems somewhat secluded. Additionally, doing so as a copycat artist that was rapidly able to put together a warehouse sized art show seems far-fetched. Lastly, the street artists like Shepard Fairley with whom he spent significant time, and from the documentary seemed to even befriend, were so different. While they seemed mild-mannered and intent on remaining confidential, he is often annoying, blissfully ignorant, and always filming you. Due to these aforementioned hints, Banksy’s livelihood as an experimental artist aimed at social critiques, and to me, just the general oddness of Thierry Guetta as he aligns with the topic, we question the authenticity of the film perhaps more than we would others. The more important question to me is does this make it any less real, and the commentary and critique any less poignant?

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