Its too bad Oklahoma City Museum of Art already has played the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, because it would make an ideal double feature with Con Artist, which is screening Friday and Saturday night.
Whereas Exit featured Banksy, an internationally famous artist so publicity-shy that his identity remains unknown, Con features Mark Kostabi, a internationally famous artist who cant get enough press for his liking. In his own words, hes addicted to it. The doc depicts his rise, fall and rise again, in spite of himself.
The Con of director Michael Sládeks title holds two meanings: Kostabi is a conceptual artist, but also an admitted forger. Like his rival Jeff Koons, hes a talent so in love with the almighty dollar that he rarely does any work anymore. Instead, he employs a staff of artists who copy Kostabis well-established style to make his every whim exist on the canvas. When its to his liking, hell sign it, while gleefully declaring that hes committed yet another con.
Well, if he can be bothered to pick up the pen; his employees can replicate his distinctive John Hancock just as well.
Also adept at the piano, Kostabi is one talented guy, but his personality is another story, thereby making Con Artist imminently watchable. Abrasive and obnoxious are understatements when describing how he rubs his peers. In the films opening moments, hes called everything from a half-ass entertainer to Applebees aspiring to be Olive Garden.
Is he for real, or is it all an act?
Some OK, all just dont get him, as his interests veer toward public-access cable television, staging an elaborate yet still not entirely concrete game show called Title This, in which contestants offer names for his untitled paintings, for which theyre rewarded with $20 bills.
Viewers wont quite get him, either, particularly after a bizarre, third-act meltdown that finds a presumably intoxicated Kostabi burning money, defacing his own paintings, farting into the camera and generally acting like a kindergartener who found and promptly consumed an entire sixpack of blue raspberry Jolt in the back of the pantry.
What does one make of a guy who, on one hand, had his statue of Pope Benedict XVI blessed by the subject himself, yet on the other, asks a room of Yale art students to whom hes lecturing if anyone else has seen 11:11 pop up on digital clocks with regularity (and if any organization is looking into this)?
Is he for real, or is it all an act? I dont have the answer, and neither does Sládek, but youll enjoy every awkward, outrageous minute of trying to get to bottom of his mad mystery of mirth and mischief.