There's many artists out there who're in it just for the money. Which isn't a great thing but money seems to make humans do most things in life. This is the last thing you want to hear from an artist when purchasing their work. Mr Brainwash seems to be just that. I first heard about him after watching Banksy's documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. I should say we heard about him, no one knew Thierry Guetta before he was in this documentary, and a big part of it as well.
Art should have some sort of true meaning. But yet again, anything can be art, what is art even? Art can't be defined. But what can be defined is Mr Brainwash and his tactics he's used to become "relevant" in the contemporary art world. Not to mention is lacklustre artwork.
Who is Mr. Brainwash?
Thierry Guetta, also known as Mr. Brainwash was born in France in 1966. Guetta, a former videographer and the owner of a vintage clothing store, was first introduced to street art in late '90s Paris on a trip. After his documentary with Banksy, Thierry Guetta swiftly reinvented himself as artist "Mr. Brainwash".
Mr. Brainwash - Credit: Galerie Montmartre
He is a provocative figure in street art. Mr. Brainwash uses copyrighted images from popular culture, history, and art history. Subtly altering the context of the image or the original source material, the artist mischievously undermines its tone.
Brainwash is a pseudonym of Thierry Guetta and is well-known for creating large spectacles to showcase his art. He rose to fame through large-scale public projects in Los Angeles, and as the central figure in the Banksy-directed Exit Through the Gift Shop.
What is Mr. Brainwash Best Known For?
Banksy's 2010 award-winning documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop featured Mr Brainwash. The documentary follows Thierry Guietta's involvement in street art and the culture that surrounds it. The documentary premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2010 and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary Feature.
After the film's premiere, Mr Brainwash became a household name and has enjoyed a flourishing artistic career ever since. The film features cameos from a whole host of established street artists such as Shepard Fairey and even the elusive Banksy himself. Guetta transforms into Mr. Brainwash, launching his street-art career at the climax of this documentary.
Banksy Thrower - Mr Brainwash / credit: FineArtMultiple
In the documentary we also find out Theirry's cousin is infamous street artist Space Invader, who's made quite a career for himself. The anonymous artist has shown all over the world, his unique fun pixelated twist on art has gained quite, the following, his anonymity also adds a fun twist to it all.
Many critics are still skeptical about the authenticity of Mr Brainwash as a Banksy PR stunt. Banksy insists that Mr. Brainwash, when questioned on the subject, is an independent and authentic artist. He's done a lot of great charity work and we'll give credit where its due. But his the continuation of his career since the documentary, has really just been one big PR stunt. In the same documentary theres a clip where a woman polity asks Mr Brainwash about the Campbells Soup painting he did, a piece original to the late Andy Warhol.
She asks "I see this everywhere, its been replicated so many times, explain it to me", Theirry simply stares into space. Now I'm not suggesting theres some hardcore deep meaning behind the original piece by Andy Warhol. But you can vividly see the lack of originality and interest to the art on Thierry's face as he is troubled to come up with an answer. Some say his whole career is a prank, some see it otherwise seeing how far he's gotten in his career. Watch the documentary.
Flowers (1964) - Andy Warhol
Flowarh$ (2021) - Mr.Brainwash
All of his work is a play on several contemporary artists such as Banksy, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst and more. Take a look for yourselves, here's an array of art by him up for sale on Artsy. Many artist copy or I should say gain inspiration from other artists. But Mr Brainwash did things in a different way. It was clearly shown in Banksy's documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop that his entire career is one big PR stunt.
He wanted to see if he could get away with making a bunch of random, thoughtless art in a quick matter of time, display it with a bit of buzz backing Banksy and see how much of it sells. His entire joke of a career started right then and there, for all of us to see. And unfortunately he's made quite the career out of his stunt. Celebrities, actors and many more have been told to collect his work.
On Reddit's IAmA thread, user Kidute had his own thoughts on the whole film:
After watching the film and digging around a bit, I certainly believe that Thierry is "real". I think the important distinction however, is whether the endgame of the film (Mr. BrainWash and the art show) is "real", or a ruse orchestrated by Banksy and Fairey to prank the art establishment.
I lean towards thinking that it was a hoax, and here are my reasons why; for starters, I don't believe Fairey and Banksy would lend credibility to Thierry and his show through their quotes unless they were in on the gag. Especially since Banksy himself called Thierry a "retard" in the film. Secondly, the money issue just doesn't make any sense. Theirry was running around for years, leaving his wife running a vintage clothing shop / thrift store, and he suddenly has the capital to 1.) hire a huge staff of "artists", 2.) buy thousands of dollars worth of screen printing equipment, computers, software, and raw materials to create his "art", 3.) hire a publicist good enough to get a nobody on the cover of LA Weekly, 4.) take out ad space on billboards all over LA to pub his show, and 5.) rent out a huge exhibition space for his show. No. Fucking. Way. The only way that makes any sense is if either Thierry has a million dollar inheritance / lottery winnings that aren't mentioned in the film, or, the flush pockets of Banksy and Fairey were really the ones bankrolling the MBW art show. I tend to believe the latter.
Is Mr. Brainwash Banksy?
No, they're not the same person. Many have created a conspiracy theory about this since the documentary. But you can clearly see two different individuals in the documentary one as Thierry Guetta and the other as Banksy. Mr Brainwash didn't even know what stencil art was prior to discovering it in the documentary.
Not only this but Banksy as refused the claims. In the documentary Shepard Fairey states he was the one who introduced Thierry to Banksy, doesn't seem likely Shepard Fairey would play along with such thing. But then again, who knows? Nonetheless, many have looked hard into it and many reasons suggest otherwise.
Mr Brainwash may not be Banksy, but he's definitely a fraud.