An interview with Ron English has revealed a number of new twists in the stories of Banksy/Shepard Fairey/Mr. Brainwash/Exit Through the Gift Shop, as well as confirmed some major long-time rumors. Read Ron’s words in full over here, but here’s a summary:
Thierry Guetta/Mr. Brainwash is a real guy and he’s really like how Exit portrays him. He’s not some actor hired by Banksy or whatever else people have claimed.
Even before becoming Mr. Brainwash, Thierry was pretty wealthy and he owned a bunch of property in LA. That was his big “in” to connect with street artists: He could offer them the best walls to paint legally.
Exit Through the Gift Shop came out of Banksy’s intervention in a lawsuit between Shepard and Thierry over Thierry essentially holding hostage all these tapes that Shepard and Banksy wanted access to.
Well, there you go. Banksy‘s film Exit Through The Gift Shop, while a good film, was apparently just not good enough for The Academy. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature but lost to Inside Job (a win which will probably has a larger postive impact on the world than a win for Exit).
While I can understand that some people were not excited when Exit was nominated, and I also certainly saw it as a sign of Banksy’s mainstream popularity and pandering, for better or worse, I would have the say that once it got nominated, I wanted to at least see it win.
So with the Oscars less than a week away and an Oscar nomination under his belt, of course Banksy has hit up LA with some new work. Some of it’s good, some of it is barely worth a mention and all of it is getting lots of attention.
My personal favorite from this series of hits is the above billboard, the aftermath of which can be seen in this video. Expect it to show up on eBay any day now.
The other piece I really like is this Charlie Brown on a burnt out building:
Hieronymus spotted the Charlie Brown piece getting covered by the property management company. His thoughts on the subject as well as on the general way that Banksy’s outdoor work has such a strange life these days are worth checking out. I would pretty much echo his sentiments. There’s also this video of the piece getting covered, but not much is clear except that the building owners want the work covered for now.
I think with either of those two pieces, they’d be worth mentioning even if they weren’t by Banksy, and that should be the measure by which his work is judged. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and massive amounts of attention have also been paid to every new Banksy in LA, even the two mediocre ones. First, there’s Dog Wizz, which is kinda funny I guess but definitely not top-notch Banksy work:
And then there’s this piece which looks to me like something Mr. Brainwash would dream up after looking at Banksy and Dran’s stuff for a bit too long:
Besides being a really weak concept compared to the rest of Banksy’s work with kids drawing, there are a few crazy things about this crayon-gun stencil: It was first “discovered” by Lauren Conrad from The Hills and she posted a photo on her twitter. As Hrag speculates, this was pretty clearly staged for maximum publicity for both Lauren and Banksy. Additionally, there’s this painting by Nils Westergard from about a year ago that is pretty similar, so if you like this Banksy but can’t afford to hire somebody to chop a wall out for you, you can always buy the Westergard version on canvas for $500. I’m not saying that Banksy ripped off Westergard, just trying to point out how simple the concept of a crayon-gun is (then again, you could argue that the simple concepts are what makes some of Banksy’s art so good). Finally, I think it’s pretty hilarious to see Banksy fans loving this piece when the first thing it made me think of is that infamous Mr. Brainwash image of Elvis holding a toy gun instead of a guitar. Honestly, the concept of this piece seems so MBW-esque to me, even though the style is obviously Banksy’s. Oh, and it looks like somebody trashed this wall already.
So that’s Banksy’s most recent LA advertising campaign. Some good art and lots of hype. Hopefully it all works in his favor, because I’d still love to see him win that Oscar on Sunday. I just re-watched Exit Through The Gift Shop last week for the first time since the premiere, and I liked it more the second time around. It’s not a bad film.
There’s been some speculation and wild guesses when it comes to how Banksy might possibly accept his Oscar, if Exit Through The Gift Shop wins this year for best documentary feature. An article on a NYTimes blog might have the answer. Supposedly, the Academy has arranged that producer Jaimie D’Cruz will have to accept the award on Banksy’s behalf, to avoid any monkey business that Banksy might try to pull otherwise.
And yes, one reason I’m posting about this is that I can make that bad pun about monkey business.
Well I’ve been back in London for about a week now, and I am beginning to understand why people think it’s so grey. When you live here, you get used to it, but wow I’ve only been away for a few months and already I think the constant greyness is annoying. Still, it’s good to be home. Here’s what the world has been up to while I’ve been watching it rain.
A group of artists protested the removal of Blu’s mural outside of MOCA this week by projecting images onto the buffed wall. Here’s a news story and a video.
Kyle Chayka went on a bit of a rant about Banksy’s possible Oscar nomination, but he makes some good points.
Also on the topic of Exit Through The Gift Shop, the NYTimes is reporting that a man who has come forward as an original editor of Mr. Brainwash’s film Life Remote Control wants some credit for making the film that eventually sort of morphed into Exit.
Carolina A. Miranda wrote the latest cover article for the magazine ARTnews about the future of street art and it moving away from figurative work. You can read the entire article online. On the one hand, a move away from pop-art and figurative art seems to be counter-productive to the “art for the people” ethos at the core of so much street art, but it’s also certainly easier to turn a pop-art image into a marketing campaign while an abstract painting may do a better job of brightening up a grey wall without the artist and the viewer immediately thinking of dollar signs. I think street artists will just have to be careful to not become so conceptual that the possibility for people to understand or appreciate the art on some level without an artist’s statement is lost.
A mural by Shepard Fairey was partially painted over in LA by some other artists/writers. No big deal right? Happens all the time, right? Wrong, apparently. The mural was painted over by another artist showing at a gallery nearby. According to JetSetGraffiti, the artist has since apologized and will be paying for Shepard to repair the wall with a new mural. Okay, so should that mural still be there untouched? Maybe. Sounds like the local neighborhood liked it. Can it suck when things get dissed or buffed or written over accidentally or whatever else? Yeah. Should the artist have to pay for damages? Hell no! That’s the sort of thing that happens when you get arrested by the police for graffiti or street art, not something that art lovers should impose upon each other. The mural didn’t last forever. That’s the nature of street art. It sucks sometimes and there are ways to deal with it, but don’t make the vandal pay for damages!
The film blog All These Wonderful Things has an interview up with Banksy about Exit Through The Gift Shop. Despite the usual unbelievable claims like “I paint my own pictures” and “I’m not clever enough to have invented Mr. Brainwash” (Okay so maybe that’s half true, but I’m sorry there’s no way Banksy and Shepard just let that show happen with no involvement, as seems to be shown in the film), this is definitely one of less jokey and comparatively transparent Banksy interviews out there.
Here’s what I found to be the most out-of-character and insightful comment:
I think its pretty clear that film is the pre-eminent art form of our age. If Michaelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci were alive today they’d be making Avatar, not painting a chapel. Film is incredibly democratic and accessible, it’s probably the best option if you actually want to change the world, not just re-decorate it.
Also, this is pretty much sums up the film for me:
If we’ve done our job properly with EXIT, then the best part of the entire movie is the conversation in the car park afterwards.
I just wrote over 1000 words describing a series of tweets and blog posts by Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City and Marc Schiller of Wooster Collective without even getting to my thoughts on those events, but I realized that it was kind of boring and pointless. If you want to know the full story behind what I have to say now, you canreadityourself. In short, there was controversy surrounding the possibility that Marc Schiller was doing marketing for Exit Through The Gift Shop and using his twitter and Wooster as part of the marketing campaign.
The end result of all this back and forth? Yes, Marc is helping with the marketing for the film. Wooster Collective has supported Banksy for years and Marc’s day job is in marketing, so it kind of makes sense. But Marc isn’t getting paid for his work. Nonetheless, he didn’t ever make it clear on the Wooster Collective website that he was part of the film’s marketing team (to be fair, it wasn’t a secret and he would tell you his involvement if you asked, but he wasn’t volunteering the information to all of Wooster Collective’s readers).
After initially being upset (particularly because he commented on my post about Banksy’s marketing efforts for Exit Through The Gift Shop without mentioning his own involvement) and then speaking with Marc about the situation, my take is that as a reader of Wooster Collective, my trust was betrayed. On Vandalog, Wooster Collective and just about every other blog in the world, there are times when we post about our friends or other things like that, and it would be impossible to declare every possible conflict of interest. In this particular case though, I feel very strongly that Marc and Sara should have simply noted once or twice on their blog that they are officially helping with the marketing efforts of Exit Through The Gift Shop.
I still enjoy reading Wooster Collective and I think that they are the most important street art blog in the world today (so don’t stop reading Wooster just because of this, and if you don’t read it now, please start reading), but in this one instance, I was disappointed and I just wish they had been more straightforward with their readers.
Note from RJ: The following post by Alison Young was originally published on her blog, Images to Live By. We at Vandalog would like to thank Alison for kindly allowing us to republish it here, along with part I of the review (posted yesterday).
Since the previous post, about expectations of what Exit Through the Gift Shop is about, turned out to be a long one, I thought I’d write a separate one dealing with what it’s not about.
So let’s go back to the second response that a lot of people seemed to have after seeing the movie – a feeling of surprise that it’s not ‘about’ Banksy, or at least not as much as they had expected.
It’s worth looking at this closely. Is the film ‘about’ Banksy? Well, the film is made by him, and thus it provides us with a text which tells us something about the artists and his concerns, just as his artworks, books and exhibitions do.
And then again, Banksy is in the movie: we see him in his studio; we see him stencilling; we see him with his crew of helpers creating the famous ‘vandalized telephone box’ in London (which goes on to sell for an extraordinary sum at auction); we see him installing a blow-up doll, hooded, shackled, and wearing an orange jumpsuit, at Disneyland, in a direct juxtaposition of American mass entertainment culture with the torture of detainees at Guantanamo. (All of these occurrences are filmed by Guetta.)
But of course, while all of these events are taking place, Banksy still withholds himself from any kind of identifying gaze – he wears the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head, his face is blanked by pixillation, his voice distorted (and his assistants’ identities are similarly masked).
So Banksy’s certainly in the movie, but he’s simultaneously on display and hidden from our view. But what we do see in plain sight are his stencils and his hands: as Banksy himself states in the film, ‘I told Thierry he could film my hands but only from behind’.
As he says these words in voice-over, the film shows us Banksy at work, cutting stencils (for one of his signature rats, to be put up on a wall in LA). And for me, that was one of the highlights of the film – watching those hands, whether at work on the stencil or gesturing along with the words spoken by Banksy’s distorted voice.
They’re slender hands, with long fingers. They’re the hands of an artist. What does the face matter, or the voice? Watch the film – and watch out for the scene of Banksy cutting stencils, with speed, and with great skill. That moment might not be central to the film, but it’s certainly what street art is all about.
Banksy once said “‘Every time one of my friends borrows my ideas, mounts a huge art show and becomes a millionaire celebrity,’ a little bit of me wants him dead.” I’ll amend that to “Every time a street artist turns their back on theirvalues, mounts a hugeflypostingcampaign and becomes what is essentially an advertising executive, a little bit of me wants to write over their work.”