Who is Mr. Brainwash?

French-born L.A. filmmaker and street artist Thierry Guetta is making quite a scene on the international art circuit these days, especially after having been exposed to the world in the Banksy documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop” when the camera was eventually turned on himself. Under the guise of “Mr. Brainwash”, Guetta is quickly becoming a prolific tour de force and his exhibitions have been overwhelmingly successful, to the point where shows have been extended due to the sold-out nature of each event and the hordes that flock to them. Now that the rest of the world has finally caught on, everyone wants a piece of him – even Madonna has asked him to create album cover art (which comes as no surprise, since she jumps on anything that sits on the cusp of the underground, driving it full-force into the mainstream). The Red Hot Chili Peppers also hired him for a guerilla ad campaign for their next album. 

Originally introduced to the world of graffiti by his cousin, French street artist Invader, Guetta uses a variety of mixed media in collaboration with images and icons from pop culture to form a colourful, brilliant, almost psychedelic mash-up in each of his pieces, from the monumental sculptural installations that invade the city streets, to the deceptively simple screen prints that are available in his web shop. 

With enormous success always comes a certain amount of speculation – many people have been wondering if Banksy and Shepard Fairey are behind the whole idea of Mr. Brainwash. So is he just a big hoax? Banksy is never seen – but Guetta has had so much access to him – more than anyone else, it seems. And Guetta doesn’t refute that his status as Mr. Brainwash was created by Banksy in the documentary. Is Banksy just trying to make it look like Guetta’s NOT Banksy on purpose? Mr. Brainwash is definitely more of a comic character, and he is never really portrayed as having any physical artistic talent of his own. His work is largely produced by scanning and photoshopping images – and he readily admits that he hires graphic designers to do most of his physical work for him, but he still remains the main conceptualist behind it all. So the ultimate question is this – is HYPE worth more than ART these days?

Regardless of all the brouhaha surrounding Mr. Brainwash, rather than creating art for the sake of rebellion and antagonism, Guetta’s message is more of a positive, life-affirming slap in the face to society – a vigorous shake to snap us out of our apathetic existence. Whoever he is, indeed Guetta shows us that where ever you live, life can be truly beautiful. 

Check out his amusingly button-happy Mr. Brainwash website here.

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