Exit Through the Gift Shop: Banksy’s Documentary on Street Art and the Commercialisation of Art

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a 2010 documentary film directed by none other than the world-renowned graffiti artist Banksy and narrated by Rhys Ifans. The film is a fascinating exploration of street art, its creators, and the commercialisation of art.

Banksy – Exit Through the GiftShop. Image copyright Banksy

The documentary follows Thierry Guetta, also known today as Mr. Brainwash, who initially starts filming his cousin, the street artist Invader, Monsieur André and Zevs, and gradually becomes more involved in the world of street art. He meets and films many other street artists, including Shepard Fairey, Swoon, and Buff Monster, telling them he is making a documentary; however, in truth, the tapes simply get dumped into boxes.

Banksy soon entered the picture in 2006 when his accomplice was denied entry at the US border. He enlists Guetta as his guide, recommended by Fairey. Things go well, Banksy gets many artworks up, and Guetta is invited to England to film the creation and installation of Banksy’s “Murdered Phone Booth” piece, breaking Banksy’s usual secrecy to capture the fleeting nature of street art. After Guetta returns home, he begins to put up his own stickers and posters of him with the camera and copy the techniques of the street artists he filmed.

Image copyright Banksy

As Banksy made preparations for his “Barely Legal” show in Los Angeles, Banksy secretly invites Guetta to film his inflatable Guantanamo Bay detention camp detainee placed behind the rails of Disneyland’s popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride in his daring Disneyland prank. However, the prank doesn’t go as planned, and while Banksy enjoys some fairground rides, Guetta is pushed away by security guards. Guetta’s quick thinking earns him the respect of Banksy.

The documentary continues to cover the “Barely Legal” exhibition, and we were given a rare opportunity to glimpse the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating the infamous elephant in the room. The show attracted many celebrities, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and also news reporters who questioned both the elephant and the paint used.

Image copyright Banksy

The documentary offers a rare peek into Banksy’s studio, where we see raw footage of the artist at work. We are also shown boxes containing hundreds of printed Di Faced bank notes, a counterfeit £10 note that features Princess Diana’s head and the text “Banksy of England” instead of “Bank of England”. Banksy’s design of the notes includes hidden messages of criticism towards the royal family and the media’s treatment of Princess Diana. Banksy has not yet released these onto the streets and they are left in boxes in his studio.

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Due to Banky’s show “Barely Legal” being a huge success, the price of street art begins to skyrocket in auction houses. Banksy is stunned by the sudden hype and urges Guetta to finish his documentary to show what the movement is about. The documentary is ready, and as Banksy sits down to watch the film, he is awkwardly disappointed with Guetta’s unfocused and disorienting 90-minute documentary titled “Life Remote Control”. However, he recognises the value of the 10,000 hours of footage and decides to create his own film. To keep Guetta busy, Banksy advises him to return home, make art, and organise his exhibition.

As he becomes more entrenched, Guetta tries his own hand at street art and transforms himself into the artist Mr. Brainwash. Guetta, now “Mr Brainwash”, risks everything for his first exhibition, and after a little help from Banksy and a few friends, the exhibition surprisingly is a huge success. His art is sold for tens of thousands of dollars, and he goes on to create art for Madonna’s Celebration. Banksy and Fairey are surprised by his success, but Guetta remains confident in his art. The film raises many questions about the nature of art and the commercialisation of street art, as Banksy comments on Mr. Brainwash …

Banksy – Exit Through the GiftShop. Image copyright Banksy

 I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don’t do that so much anymore.”


Exit Through the Gift Shop is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in the urban art scene. The documentary offers a fascinating opportunity to view the world of street art through the camera lens and footage of artists who may never have been captured in their younger years if not for Guetta’s presence. Banksy’s signature wit is evident throughout the film, with his usual dose of subversive humour and biting social commentary.

Banksy – Teaser Banksy film

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” is an English documentary film directed by Banksy and produced by Jaimie D’Cruz. It was released on April 16, 2010, and has a 1 hour and 27 minutes runtime. It was distributed by Producers Distribution Agency and produced by Paranoid Pictures. The film has a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91% audience score.

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