Banksy - The Accidental Oscar Nominee...
From its infancy, film has attracted visual artists who push the boundaries of their art form.
As early as 1926 Marcel Duchamp (he of the 1917 piece “Fountain”, which was actually a men’s urinal signed ‘R. Mutt’), collaborated with Surrealist photographer Man Ray and film director Marc Allégret to produce “Anémic Cinéma”, a seven minute film of hypnotic spinning discs and French puns.
In 1929, Salvador Dali collaborated with Spanish director Luis Buñuel on “Un Chien Andalou”, based on dreams that the two had experienced. The twenty-one minute silent film opens with the terrifying real portrayal of a woman’s eye being slit by a razor, before jumping haphazardly through time (“eight year later”, “around three in the morning”, “in Spring”…).
Picasso, Cocteau, Breton and Auric attended the premiere, where, much to the surprise and disappointment of Dali, the film received a positive reception.
David Bowie would later show the film as the opening of his 1976 “Station to Station” concerts.
Forty years later, Andy Warhol made well over a hundred films.
His first, 1963’s “Sleep”, is simply of his lover, the poet John Giorno, asleep for over five hours. Nine people attended the premier. Two left during the first hour.
His last, 1977’s “Andy Warhol’s Bad” is a feature length comedy, produced by Warhol and directed by Jed Johnson. This time over seven hundred people attended the premier, including Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Jack Nicholson.
Of these, and the many other artists who have turned to the camera, one ended up with an ‘accidental’ Oscar nomination...
The Street Art Movement
From pre-history, the human mind has found a blank wall an irresistible canvas. From the cave art of Altimara, to the preserved plaster of Roman Pompeii and the Medieval walls of England’s churches, man has always felt a need to leave his mark.
The gangs of the 1920s and 1930s continued this trend on the walls and subway cars of New York, and, it was here, in the 1970s, that Street Art emerged.
By the early 1980s, New York’s hip-hop and graffiti culture had arrived in major U.K. cities, pioneered by young musicians and artists such as Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja, a member of the Bristol based collective “The Wild Bunch”.
Bristol continues to be an important part of the U.K.’s Street Art scene, including hosting ‘Upfest’, Europe’s largest festival of Street Art and Graffiti, with hundreds of artists present from around the world. The most famous however street artist, is however, home grown.
Banksy’s tag first appeared on Bristol walls in the early 1990s, as part of the city’s DryBreadZ Crew. By the early years of the millennium, he had turned to stencilling his art and, with shows in L.A. and London, was establishing his trademark subversive style.
By 2010, he had hit walls (and art galleries) across the world, his work was in the collections of celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Kate Moss; and, TIME magazine had listed him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
And, for some of that time, the camera had been rolling…
Thierry Guetta is a Los Angeles based Frenchman and video camera obsessive. He is also cousin to street artist, Invader.
Having discovered his cousin’s secret identify, Thierry began filming him, and other street artists such as Shepard Fairey (famous for his Obey Giant street art experiment) at work, while claiming to be making a street art movie.
When Banksy arrived in L.A., Fairey suggested Guetta as his guide. This unlikely double-act saw Banksy hit the city with Thierry (and his camera) in tow. Thierry followed Banksy back to the U.K., filming him as he produced pieces such as the ‘murdered phone box’. On Banksy’s return to the States for his ‘Barely Legal’ show, Thierry joined him on an ill-fated trip to Disneyland where Banksy’s deployment of a blow-up Guatanemo Bay detainee doll landed Thierry in the hands of Disney’s security team (he hid the film in his socks to keep it safe).
Encouraged to complete his film, Thierry finally produced “Life Remote Control”. It was ninety minutes long, and, unwatchable.
Rather than let the many hours of sensitive footage fall in to the wrong hands, Banksy decided to make the film himself.
Exit Through The Gift Shop
The small team Banksy assembled waded through 10,000 hours of Thierry’s tapes, carefully mining the nuggets from the mundane…
At the same time, Thierry was also busying himself…
With little experience of the art world, or of being an artist, Thierry remortgaged his business, named himself “Mr. Brainwash”, recruited a team of artists and began instructing them on the creation of derivative ‘pop art’. He aimed bug. Too big. Aiming to fill the former CBS Studios on Sunset Boulevard with his work. The result (saved only by the intervention of Banksy and Fairey) was his first art show, “Life Is Beautiful”. It turned “Mr. Brainwash” in to an overnight star of the artworld.
The cameraman had become the artist. The artist, the filmmaker.
Banksy’s “Exit Through The Gift Shop” premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It is more than a documentary about Street Art, it is a funny and at times touching story of how against all logic, an idiosyncratic Frenchman living in L.A. watched his idols and then turned himself in to an unlikely art phenomenon.
It was nominated for ‘Best Documentary’ at the 2011 Academy Awards.
We are huge Banksy fans and we were lucky enough to attend the showings of the film held by Banksy in the tunnels under Waterloo station.
Although they are hard to come by, we are always on the hunt for original “Exit Through The Gift Shop” posters. You can see those we currently have available here.
Adam and the Art of the Movies team.