Miami Biennale
"Mr. Brainwash" Thierry Guetta = Banksy ?

Art Works
Mr. Brainwash "Mr. Brainwash", Miami, 2008
Exterior mural; 12 x 30 feet
Dorissa Mural 2008: Art Basel Mural Fest 2008

Mr. Brainwash "Mr. Brainwash", Miami, 2008
Detail with Milagros Maldonado
Exterior mural; 12 x 30 feet
Dorissa Mural 2008: Art Basel Mural Fest 2008

Return to: Artist Biographies

"Mr. Brainwash" Thierry Guetta = Banksy ?
American contemporary artist. Mr. Brainwash ("MBW") is a pseudonym for Thierry Guetta, aka Cyprian. He is presented in the 2010 film Exit Through The Gift Shop as a French citizen who now lives in Los Angeles, having been a proprietor of a clothing store and videographer who evolved into a street artist and gallery artist, influenced by the street artists he claims to have documented through video over the years. The film says that Thierry Guetta was first introduced to street art by his cousin, the French street artist, Invader. The film includes what it claims to be authentic documentation of Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, Banksy and other well-known street artists at work on the streets. The film is directed by Banksy and includes much participation by Fairey.

The artwork attributed to Guetta strongly emulates the styles and artistic concepts of well-known street artists including Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Like Banksy, Guetta employs famous artistic and historic images, many of which are copyrighted, and amends the originals in slight or significant ways. Unlike Banksy, who is shown in the film creating his own work, Guetta states in the film that his work largely consists of "scanning and photoshopping", acts which are carried out by hired assistants. Guetta further admits in "Exit Through The Gift Shop" that most of the actual artistic process is carried out by hired graphic designers to whom he describes his ideas. In the film, he is not shown creating very much artwork himself.

Guetta's first show Life is Beautiful opened in Los Angeles June 18, 2008. In 2009, Guetta created the cover art for Madonna's Celebration album. On February 14, 2010, his second show ICONS opened in New York City.

Life is Beautiful
On June 18, 2008, Mr. Brainwash made his debut art show, "Life is Beautiful", at the former CBS Studios in Los Angeles. A cover article about the show and Mr. Brainwash was featured in LA Weekly, an article that marked a pivotal point in MBW's career. It was this exhibition and article that brought Mr Brainwash to the notice of the art world. Over 7,000 people attended the show on its opening night. The creation of the show was documented in the film
"Exit Through the Gift Shop".

Spray Cans
The spray can has become an iconic image for Mr Brainwash. Like Warhol, who re-invented high art in the 1960’s by putting a twist on classic American images, Mr. Brainwash puts his own unique stamp on the highly inspired piece by re-creating the Campbell’s soup can in order to resemble his own signature spray can. MBW’s spray can imagery was the face of his inaugural “Life is Beautiful” exhibition in Los Angeles, California, and was featured on the cover of the LA Weekly Magazine that announced the show. This magazine article was MBW’s first major press, and consequently marks the point in his career that brought him from a documentary filmmaker to an artist. Massive cans were created for the artist’s recent ICONS show in NYC.

On February 14, 2010 Mr. Brainwash opened his second show, this time in New York City. The show, "ICONS", covered 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) of an abandoned warehouse in the West Village to create a gallery. According to Anthony Haden-Guest, writing in the blog The Daily Beast, a Mr. Brainwash portrait of Jim Morrison made of broken vinyl records appearing in the show sold for $100,000. Massive cans were created for the show, ranging in size from 4 ft (1.2 m) to 12 ft (3.7 m) and are now embodied as prints in a series.

JMr. Brainwash at Auction (Records/Prices)

Mr Brainwash made his major auction debut on May 14, 2010 in the Phillips de Pury & Company Contemporary Art Sale: Part II. The piece, a massive canvas, was given a pre-auction estimate of $50,000 - 70,000. The piece featured a Charlie Chaplin character with paint can and roller in hand. The background of the work was adorned with the artist's Madonna and Heart image, set in an urban/street environment.

The London Fall 2010, Phillips de Pury & Company Contemporary Art Sale marked the artists second presence in auction, this time represented by two unique works. The two pieces ranging in size, were described as spray and metallic paint, acrylic and paper collage on canvas. The smaller of the two pieces measures 106.7 x 106.7 cm (42 x 42 inches) and featured a portraiture style depiction of model Kate Moss amongst heavy brush strokes and splatters of red, pink, and white paint all amongst a gold background. The larger piece, measuring 162.6 x 121.9 cm (64 x 48 inches), continued the artist's fascination with Albert Einstein and featured the historic physicist in a front of a graffiti adorned wall. The works sold for well above the pre-auction estimates, fetching prices nearly 3 times higher than what was speculated in the estimates. The final prices for the two canvases were roughly 67,000.USD and 120,000.USD.

Mr. Brainwash speculation and theories
Since the release of the film Exit Through The Gift Shop, the purported documentary directed by Banksy, there has been much speculation that the film and story of Mr. Brainwash are a hoax concocted by Banksy himself. Among the most questionable aspects of his character in the film is the absence of any footage of Guetta creating his uncannily Banksy-like images. When he is shown "working," he is only seen splattering paint using aerosol cans to haphazardly color images and clumsily attempting to paste up a poster. Other aspects of the Mr. Brainwash character seem deliberately comical, such as his being pushed in a wheelbarrow after supposedly breaking his foot.

The quotes below typify the speculation for and against the idea of the film and Mr. Brainwash himself being a hoax:

"Is Banksy’s ‘Exit Through the Giftshop’ a hoax too far?" - the Times Online

The whole thing, it's clear now, was an intricate prank being pulled on all of us by Banksy, who has never publicly revealed his identity, with Fairey as his accomplice. - Alissa Walker

The low evidence of sales on also supports the argument that the art world hasn’t really been as exploited by media-hype as the film suggests. With both shows held outside of commercial galleries, no professional dealers have had their reputation on the line in making fake claims of high sales. However, if Guetta is a hoax, there also exists the possibility that these artworks are actually produced by Banksy himself, in a style deliberately intended to suggest inferior artistic skill.

As the movie opened in the USA, in April 2010, The Boston Globe movie reviewer Ty Burr found it to be quite entertaining as a farce and awarded it four stars. He dismissed the notion of the film being a "put on" saying "I’m not buying it; for one thing, this story’s too good, too weirdly rich, to be made up. For another, the movie’s gently amused scorn lands on everyone."

It has also been speculated that Banksy simply was able to document the exploitation of the art world, after endorsing MBW's first solo show. While many people believe in a conspiracy regarding the success of MBW as an artist, this theory holds to the idea that markets can be exploited through branding and brand association in any industry.