February 14, 2010 / 7:22 PM / in 8 years

Secretive urban artist Banksy shows film in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Banksy, the secretive British artist whose work has appeared on city streets around the world, said on Sunday he hoped his documentary film “Exit Through The Gift Shop” will raise the standing of urban art.

But the anonymous graffiti artist with a cult following said in a shadowy video message to audiences at the Berlin Film Festival on Sunday before the screening of his film that it was possible it could have the complete opposite effect.

“I guess my ambition was to make a film that would do for graffiti art what ‘The Karate Kid’ did for martial arts -- a film that would get every schoolkid in the world picking up a spray can and having a go,” Banksy said of his first film.

“As it turns out, I think we might have a film that does for street art what ‘Jaws’ did for waterskiing.”

Banksy’s voice was altered and his face concealed, as in the documentary. His film is the story of urban art as told by an earlier associate, Frenchman Thierry Guetta, who tapes artists in action.

Banksy has become world famous for illegal outdoor graffiti, including painting the West Bank barrier and leaving a life-size figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at the California theme park Disneyland -- both documented in the film.

He uses satire in his works, tackling politics and culture.

Banksy, who has the directing credit for the 87-minute film, allows the Frenchman to film him working provided he shows only his hands and his back. Some footage of Banksy is in the film, including the artist’s Disneyland episode and narrow escape.

“‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’ is one of the most honest films you will ever see,” Banksy said in his video to the festival.

“There was no plan, there was no script and we didn’t even realize we were making a film until halfway through. I think it’s a good film as long as you’ve got very low expectations.”

From a small-time graffiti artist to a global star, Banksy’s work has become so valuable that several of his street works have been salvaged and sold, including a painting on a London wall in London that fetched 208,100 pounds ($340,000) in 2008.

Banksy, from the western English city of Bristol, has had four exhibitions in Britain and the United States that attracted a total of over 550,000 visitors.

It was unclear whether the artist was in Berlin for the premiere. Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick said he would be in town. “He’ll be here but no one will see him,” he said.

A press conference was at one point scheduled but canceled.

“There wouldn’t have been anyone to give any answers,” a festival spokeswoman said. She added organizers assumed Banksy would at some point leave a tangible sign of his presence.

Editing by Andrew Roche

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