Tag Archives: Oscar Awards

Exit Through The Gift Shop- Who’s fooling whom?

I recently sat down and watched the documentary entitled “Exit Through The Gift Shop” after a friend made a positive comment about it. I was aware of the film and especially after my name has two of the most recently known names in European art circles (Ben the french artist who writes phrases in French on a canvas and Banksy the ‘secret’ street artist who has never been identified or supposedly even photographed), my curiosity grew after I had read some reviews calling into question whether the film was a work of fiction or an actual documentary. Suffice to say I won’t wade into the pool of whether it was or wasn’t genuine. I enjoyed the film and found it entertaining and surprising.

Entertaining because the characters appear to take themselves lightly but you can tell underneath the facade they take themselves very seriously. Despite this, all are easy to spend time with, except  two people (the promoter hired by Banksy to assist in Thierry’s L.A. show and some surgically over-enhanced middle aged woman bragging how she has a Warhol work somewhere packed away in a box but a Banksy piece right up in a prominent wall in her home.)

Surprising, as the film raised some relevant questions about the business practices used by promoters, galeries and the upper class auction houses that have gotten involved in the high-price/ high-brow world of pop art. It begs to ask how one artist can ‘create’ their art by using copyrighted images from other media and advertising; images that were photographed and/or created by another earlier artist or advertising team; run around spray painting their stenciled images on public and private property but in the end turn around and give the arched eyebrow and a condescending comment about Thierry because he does the same thing they do but with a massive  labor intensive effort and a compressed time frame of weeks. One artist mentions that Thierry missed out on the ‘perfecting of his craft’ and that his art looks like everyone else’s. He’s right. In fact, this is all the art I see in the shops and galeries from St. Tropez to Monte Carlo. And yes, it all looks the same. The sad thing is, in the film, never once do you hear someone say ‘It’s beautiful’ or get lost looking at whatever work is being displayed. They see it, shrug or nod and then move on to the next piece exactly as if they had just consumed a sandwich. Hmmmm, food for thought.

And all this happens after Thierry’s show brings in a reported 1 million dollars. It seems that he has won the jackpot. However, there is no mention of how much money Thierry may have spent on working and getting the show together (a remortgage loan by putting up his home and business gives him capital) and whether, after additional costs and paying his staff of 20, he even makes a profit.

Keeping in mind that Banksy is credited with directing the film or at least taking what footage he felt was important, molding it into a strong story arc and obviously retaining editing control before the film was released, it serves to remind you that you are watching what he wants to show you and your attention is directed where he wants it to go.

The film states that it’s about Banksy turning the camera back onto someone who was trying to get Banksy on camera.Well yes and no. Originally, the film had nothing to do with Banksy per say. Thierry eventually wandered into that direction after months of taping graffiti artists and they in turn raving about how great Banksy was at not getting caught.(Indeed extraordinary given the UK’s reputation for CCTV camera’s being everywhere). He became the only one that Thierry didn’t have access to. And Thierry thrived on access.

One thing that is glaring is the fact that these artists all have huge cavernous work spaces in cities with the highest real estate prices in the world. Even renting these out of the way warehouses is expensive and I think tells us that these artists are kids from moneyed families; that Mom and Dad has been financing their ‘artistic’ craft. With the amount of material, labor and transportation costs entailed, I think it’s safe to say this is a case of culture disguising itself as counter culture. I think anyone can agree that culture has always bred counter culture and made it it’s golden goose for making money in the end.

The film I think brings to fore the artist’s (Banksy and others) uncomfortableness with their own success whether it be financial or in pop culture acceptance . They in essence have achieved what they based their whole image and work on; being the outsider, the counter-culture, the have-nots, their identity as working class and the continued fight against mass pop culture and the ‘brand’. They are in essence the brand now. And some; especially Banksy; have been rewarded very well financially. But they struggle, I suspect, with the realization that they have crossed into this other realm and they are now the ‘brand’ or at least a target that some other upcoming ‘counter culture’ artist in the coming years will either make the subject of their disdain or just simply make them the butt of  a joke about the commercialization of  modern pop art.

In the beginning the film tips the viewer with this little nugget; that Thierry could take a 50 dollar bag full of discarded, forgotten about and no longer hip clothing and turn around and sell it for 5,000 dollars simply by stating that the irregular stitching on an article of clothing was ‘designer’. All he had to do was hype it.

I think in the end, these artists must feel like that bag of clothes. And the one question an artist always has nagging in the back of his mind is “Am I really  doing something original or …something  thats already been done before? Am I really good? Or am I just hype?”

In the end ,it  just may be a question of “Who’s fooling whom?”

Bookmark this on Yahoo Bookmark
Share on StumbleUpon
Bookmark this on Digg

Posted in The Business Of Art | Also tagged , , , Leave a comment

The REAL ‘Inside Job’- The Art World’s Next Financial Meltdown?

Who's standing on your pile of money?

Last night in Los Angeles, the Oscar for best documentary feature was awarded to the film INSIDE JOB, a chilling tale of the most recent market meltdown orchestrated by the world’s biggest financial institutions. After all the hype of whether Exit Through The Gift Shop would win or not, I began to see a pattern emerging.

While the financial collapse in the last three years has left an unbelievable wake of misery, ruin, and distrust of the ‘engine’ that drives the Western economies, I believe it parallels another disturbing trend, that the art world and the market buyers has been bamboozled, hoodwinked, lied to, cheated and tossed aside like a toy that no longer entertains a child.

It’s a complex issue with many elements and one that I will try to address and explain in the next few posts. But I will say this; the high art market is extremely toxic and may be about to collapse.


The definition of conceptual art is that the idea takes precedence over the material or the aesthetics of the art itself. It has even been claimed that conceptual art is supposed to question the very nature of art.

Here’s a question. Ever heard of the great white shark in formaldehyde? That would be the work of UK artist Damien Hirst, one of the poster childs of the movement. Heard about the huge stainless steel shiny balloon animals? That is the work of American artist Jeff Koons. Both of these men have been adopted and promoted as being the new geniuses behind conceptual art thru the last 20 years.

That may or may not be true. It’s a matter of speculation from people much more educated than I about modern art history. But there has been a growing wave of discontent and mistrust in the high art market, not only over the supposed importance of the previous mentioned artists (and others) contribution to modern art but also over the astronomical prices their works have been commanding in recent auctions in London and New York and the inability for art investors to get their money back. There is a growing doubt as to the true financial and artistic merit attached to these works.

Koons and Hirst may have allowed themselves to become the art world’s equivalent of Mutt and Jeff, the comic strip where the characters are always mixed up in a get rich quick scheme. They have become bloated, pasty versions of themselves while they seclude themselves in their multi million dollar estates, trying harder than ever to appear hip and relevant to a younger demographic through their publicity machine. One has started dressing much like a noted Irish rock star singer with the sunglasses and jewelry while the other has adopted a more conservative look much like the late TV personality Mr. Rogers.

But sadly,  it’s much more than that. One kick in the arse is that these guys don’t even do the art themselves any more (if they ever did). They now have “assistants” doing the majority of the production of their work. So the question begs, are they artists or are they really art designers? How are they different from a fashion label’s head designer? Why do they go about their business treating the work like a corporate brand as opposed to doing business using the atelier/workshop/couture ethic of  the great artists of yesteryear? And who really is dictating the values in the art market and why they may be setting up a bigger financial catastrophe then the one Bernie Madoff triggered?

The answer may be much more appalling than you imagine.

Bookmark this on Yahoo Bookmark
Share on StumbleUpon
Bookmark this on Digg

Posted in The Business Of Art | Also tagged , Leave a comment

Oscar Hype in Banksy’s Favor???

In my last post I talked about the film Exit Through The Gift Shop featuring Banksy. The film is up for an Oscar and the buzz is whether Banksy will attend, reveal himself, sit in the audience hidden, prank the Academy, etc, etc.

It seems he and the story elicits a diverse amount of responses from people. Here are some I found this morning:

—Ten years ago bansky’s art was cool, now the pop world gobbled him up.. a million sheep started to say how great he is. Now this @#$%? give me a break

—-I am so disappointed that we, the public and the Acadamy folks, cater to types like this. Just tell the guy to not to show and watch him beg his way back.There used to a wonderful action to those “people” that are sub culture…..ignore them…completely silent. Just kills them.

—I much rather see Banksy’s street art when I am out in public rather than all of the advertisements and billboards plastering every available surface telling me to do this and buy that. At least his work adds to the aesthetic appeal rather than taking away from it. I don’t really care whether he has permission or not. The pointless advertisements covering buildings and buses and everything else are corporate sponsored vandalism at best.

—Actually the thing I remember Banksy for is the amazing “Simpsons” couch gag he story-boarded. A true classic, but very, very dark, as well!!

—There’s something to be truly said for an artist who constantly turns down the temptation to coup such a profit from merely revealing his identity. The interviews, the private/public commissions, the merchandising, the marketing, all of it is just a honey pot full and waiting for Banksy to show his face. But he doesn’t. He lets the art stand on its own feet and have its own identity that is completely separate from him. Banksy doesn’t feel like the art is an extension of him. I believe that Banksy feels the art is a separate entity altogether and he’s just the messenger. Could any of us have that willpower? I doubt it.

—This guy is not an artist, he is a criminal and should be punished for his crimes. Vandalism is a crime no matter what you think of it. And to those who think it’s petty, think again. How much does it cost to replace the billboard, how much does it cost to paint over the damage? I one city I know of, they have spent well over 150,000.00 to combat this stupid ugly damage.

—banksy sucks hard. for that matter, so do all “street-artists”. and if a movie about graffiti and hipsters beats restrepo, I’m going to punch a midget.

—-It’s unfortunate that so many that don’t have a clue about this mans art (and yes people, it is art) or even who he is are so negative. Try educating yourselves.

—Personally, I would love to see the red carpet overwhelmed with the traditional stars all wearing “I am BANKSY” shirts, sashes and the like. If his team is smart, they would be sending them out now. I can think of more than a few of the stars that would probably wear them. It plays on so many levels. It would be the perfect Oscar moment.

—God, the way some people are talking about this ‘criminal’ you’d think he was a murderer, or a rapist or something equally awful. Yes what he does is illegal. BUT it is still art. And it is often fabulous: how many of you could do that with a paint can, in the middle of the night, without getting caught?

—the POINT of it all is to rile people up. A lot of his work is very political — just look at the child with the machine gun full of crayons. That’s a very loaded image (if you’ll pardon the pun). And I tell you, illegal or not, if I’d have driven past that billboard with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on my way to work? I’d have paid attention. It would’ve made me smile. For one thing, I’d call that more than any LEGAL billboard could do, and also it’s GOOD for the company. I might actually have looked at what they were advertising beneath the graffiti. In my mind, if it makes people smile it really can’t be all that bad.

I like that last sentence. Maybe we all need to take a breath and just smile. I’m sure Banksy is right now.

A bientot

Bookmark this on Yahoo Bookmark
Share on StumbleUpon
Bookmark this on Digg

Posted in The Business Of Art | Also tagged , , , Leave a comment