This is an excerpt from “Lessons in Cultural Storytelling: The Looking Glass, Banksy & Mr. Brainwash (May 2010),” an article written by Michael Margolis and originally published on, an online magazine devoted to marketing, art, culture, and design.

1. Real is only what we choose to believe

The smarter you think you are, the more you are convinced this movie is an elaborate hoax perpetuated by Banksy – as the ultimate act of poetic “fuck the man” cultural subversion. Yet if you accept the movie, along with Mr Brainwash at face value, you discover a greater gem hiding in plain sight.

Debating the existence of Mr Brainwash is just a red herring provocation. That’s not really the point. Exit Through the Gift Shop is meant to stir a deeper-inquiry into what we each perceive as real, what we believe holds value, and what are the rules for making it such. Whether you’re angry, baffled, amused, or inspired – your reaction to the movie — and what you believe are the boundaries and rules of artistic expression — is the true secret to be revealed.

2. What’s the story an audience tells themselves?

Beyond the story that’s being told and performed, audiences always hear and perceive a different story – the story they create in their minds about what it all means to them personally. The same principle that applies to baseball cards, wine, and wall street stock trading – applies to the craft of art. What matters most is the story that we tell ourselves. It’s through that process that cheap pieces of canvas with splotches of paint and ink transform into prized global commodities.

Art has often been romanticized as a noble pursuit at the sacrifice of social acceptance or financial success. Especially when it comes to street art, which by its origins reflects a punk aesthetic and radical creative self-expression. One might argue that reclaiming public space with art is a defiant act about the ownership of our mental environment and collective meaning-making.

To see street art elevated and commodified as part of the global art market is a contradiction some find hard to accept. And yet, it’s through its commodification that street art has gained credibility, mass appeal and global recognition. Apparently, even the mainstream has a growing appetite for social commentary. What happens to a society when the counter-culture becomes just an accepted part of the mainstream?

3. The meaning of any story lies in the heart

Emotion is the ultimate currency that propels any story forward and to its rightful destination. Sure, controversy and debate can be strong catalysts (especially in today’s hype-driven media). Yet at the end of the day, a story stands the test of time when it touches our souls in a meaningful way. Art should be judged in a similar fashion.

Perhaps its not accident that Mr Brainwash’s latest exhibit Icons, currently extended in New York City, explores these exact concepts. I had the chance to talk with Mr Brainwash last weekend, when his exhibit re-opened on Mother’s Day for an extended run through the end of May.

In gracious tones, Mr Brainwash shared the following with me, “…you cannot judge somebody from their first show. It’s the end of their life. You have to really see not only from your eyes but from your heart.  And you’ll see if it’s real or not. The heart tells the truth.”