“I don't know how to play chess, but to me, life is like a game of chess”. – Mr. Brainwash
Mr. Brainwash is a French videographer and urban artist based in Los Angeles, who rose to fame after his collaboration with Banksy on his exhibition Barely Legal in LA - the partnership between the two artists was recorded in the Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010). Mr. Brainwash is best known for creating vibrant, colourful canvases in a hybrid pop art - graffiti style, portraying celebrities like Kate Moss and Madonna, whose album cover he created in 2009. In his layered stencil images and screen prints, he appropriates imagery from other famous artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Banksy, mixing contemporary and 20th century cultural iconographies.
Born Thierry Guetta in 1966 in Paris, the artist moved to Los Angeles at the age of 15, where he organised parties and cultural events around Hollywood. Upon his visit to France in 1999, he learned that his cousin was the famous street artist Invader. Inspired by his cousin’s career, Mr. Brainwash started working as a videographer on the street art scene, documenting famous graffiti artists like Invader, Shepard Fairey and Zevs. In 2008, Mr. Brainwash held his first ever solo exhibition. Entitled Life is Beautiful - the artist’s trademark mantra – the show was hosted in a former TV studio in Los Angeles, attracting over 30,000 visitors.
In 2009, Mr. Brainwash was approached by Banksy to collaborate on his exhibition Barely Legal in Los Angeles which was recorded in the documentary, Exit Through the Giftshop (2010). There were speculations that Mr. Brainwash was in fact Banksy himself, given the likeness between their artistic styles, however these rumours were soon dismissed. Following the documentary’s release, Mr. Brainwash quickly gained notoriety and commercial success in the art world. Later that year, Madonna commissioned him to design her 2009 album cover for Celebration, which cemented Mr. Brainwash as a household name. His portraits of Jim Morrison, Kate Moss and Charlie Chaplin - all painted in his signature hybrid style merging graffiti and pop art fetched impressive prices at his first auction with Phillips in 2010.
Since then, he has had notable exhibitions in Opera Gallery in London (2011), the Saatchi gallery in London (2013) and multiple pop-exhibitions at Miami Art Basel. His 2013 Basel installation featured numerous paintings and sculptures including a Mona Lisa with a mow-hawk in Mr. Brainwash’s signature punk aesthetic. His style is characterised by its unmistakable stencil-graffiti roots with a wild application of colour, mixed with pop art influences in his use of appropriation and fascination with the cult of celebrity. His artworks reflect on the narrative of cultural history through eclectic juxtaposition, portraying contemporary icons like Kate Moss alongside historical figures like Albert Einstein.
His public commissions include two murals in remembrance of the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 in New York City. He has also collaborated with numerous other prestigious musicians and bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Jackson and Rita Ora, both on album artworks and performances. His crossovers into the fashion world saw him working with Hublot in 2014 and Ray Ban in 2015.
Currently living and working in Los Angeles, Mr. Brainwash remains one of the most vibrant and radical personalities of the street art world with a signature, playful style fusing past and present, reflecting on the state of our culture today with unique wit and humour.
Works for sale
Investors who put their faith in Mr Brainwash saw an average return of 17% since 2017 – considerably more than those who chose the FTSE100.