Okay, okay, Netflix! I watched this movie! Stop shoving your 4.8-star recommendation down my throat! Especially because I didn’t think it was that fan-fucking-tastic.
Yes, Exit Through the Gift Shop was an interesting and informative documentary about a fascinating topic I didn’t know much about before. But the whole thing was sort of self-indulgent and empty. I appreciate the fact that Banksy, street artist extraordinaire and faceless hoodie-wearer, turned the whole thing on its head and make Mr. Brainwash appear like the prize idiot that he really is. But that portrayal was also one big pat on the back for Banksy (and Shepard Fairey), who also sort of had to recoil with embarrassment at supporting Brainwash in the first place. In the end, the whole street art scene appears to be one big blobby hoax for profits, rather than a simple, anonymous way for people to express themselves publicly.
I love coming across street art when I’m walking around. There was a Banksy piece up in North Beach for awhile that was a treat to look at, and I’m a really big fan of stencil art on the sidewalk, particularly when it’s funny; on Pine Street, towards Chinatown, for example, there are stencils that say “Tree” and “Sidewalk,” right where you’d expect them, and these make me smile every time I pass them. But I hate that our share-obsessed culture has tried to monetize this whole thing. I guess the artists have to make money somehow, but I can’t help but think that the way the scene has morphed over time just doesn’t sit well with the big guys, Banksy and Fairey included. At least we now know how to spot an impostor when we see one, and we have Paul F. Tompkins’ interpretation of Mr. Brainwash to enjoy.
Come on, Netflix. I expected more from you.