Thierry Guetta, otherwise known as Mr. Brainwash, was born in France in 1966. Formerly a videographer and owner of a vintage clothes store, Guetta was introduced to the street art scene in the late ‘90s on a trip to Paris. After encouragement from Banksy to pursue a career in art, Thierry Guetta swiftly reinvented himself as artist ‘Mr. Brainwash’. Here, we share five interesting facts about the street artist.
1. He launched his career after being featured in a documentary directed by Banksy
Mr. Brainwash was the main feature of Banksy’s award-winning documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010). The documentary follows Thierry Guetta as he becomes increasingly involved in street art and its surrounding culture. The film features cameos from a whole host of established street artists such as Shepard Fairey and even the elusive Banksy himself. The climax of the documentary sees Guetta transforming into Mr. Brainwash and launching his street art career.
The documentary premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Following the film’s release, Mr. Brainwash was catapulted into the public eye and his artistic career has thrived ever since. Many critics remain sceptical about whether or not Mr. Brainwash is a PR stunt engineered by Banksy. However, on several occasions, when asked on the topic, Banksy has insisted that Mr. Brainwash is an authentic and independent artist.
2. His style is a mix between pop and street art
Mr. Brainwash’s artworks are the perfect blend between pop and street art with his continuous appropriation of iconic images rendered in a vibrant palette. From Charlie Chaplin to Mickey Mouse, Mr. Brainwash’s work features both famous figures from history as well as fictional characters. In addition, Brainwash often uses visual elements from pop’s past, as well as raw components from his street art beginnings, to create a pioneering contemporary style.
3. He has collaborated with some of the world’s most iconic brands
Over the past 10 years, Mr. Brainwash has not only dominated the street art scene, but has also expanded into the world of collaborations. He has partnered with Coachella, Mercedes-Benz and Marvel Comics, to name just a few! His most iconic collaboration to date was with Coca-Cola in 2015. Brainwash was commissioned to create a billboard celebrating the 100th anniversary of Coca-Cola in Times Square, New York. The soft drink company has had a continuous, long-standing billboard in Times Square for more than 80 years and it was one of the first electric outdoor advertisements in history. Mr. Brainwash’s campaign played over the holiday season, celebrating the iconic American brand using only red, white and black. The collaboration with the brand also paid homage to Brainwash’s pop art roots with Coca-Cola being the main feature of many of Andy Warhol’s works.
4. His extensive charity work has led to meetings with Michelle Obama and the Pope
Brainwash is extremely active with his charity work. From donating artwork in support of the Los Angeles LGBT Centre to creating commemorative 9/11 murals in honour of the victims, Brainwash continues to support a plethora of charities. In 2016, he met with the former First Lady Michelle Obama to celebrate International Women’s Day in Washington. The event, adorned with Mr Brainwash’s artwork and murals, encouraged accessible education for all women.
More recently, in 2019, Brainwash collaborated with Pope Francis to create an artwork at the Vatican. Along with the artist Domingo Zapta, Brainwash and the Pope created a canvas celebrating immigrants that was later sold in aid of the pontiff’s art foundation for £500,000.
5. Mr. Brainwash is collected by celebrities internationally
From musicians to fashion icons, Mr. Brainwash has been collected by the world’s elite. Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, and Kim Kardashian have all bought his works, with the artist even making a cameo on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In addition to actors and reality stars supporting the artist, famous musicians such as Michael Jackson and Madonna all are known to have avidly collected his work. Mr. Brainwash continues to be an innovator of the contemporary art scene and with his continued sales and on going collaborations with the world’s most iconic brands, he shows no signs of stopping.