After years of documenting street artists as a videographer and having exclusive access to some of the most well-known artists such as Banksy, Invader and Shepard Fairey, Thierry Guetta launched his art career as a byproduct of the widely- acclaimed documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010). The Academy-nominated film documents one of the most unique turning points in art history where Guetta seeks to film the elusive, anonymous street artist Bansky, but the tables turned with Banksy taking over directing the film shooting Guetta’s journey capturing the evolution of the the street art movement onto Guetta becoming Mr. Brainwash.
Since the film’s release a decade ago, Mr. Brainwash’s popularity has exploded around the world navigating many aspects of pop culture—celebrities, film, music, sports and even politics and religion. Critics downplay his relevance in the art market as a commercial artist leveraging the power of celebrities in a media-driven world, a brainwashed postmodern public looking for the next trend to digitally show-off. Yet, art has become popular with the masses, and Mr. Brainwash has captured their attention by an ubiquitous message—life is beautiful.
Mr. Brainwash has amassed an international following driven by young collectors entering the art market since his first solo show titled Life is Beautiful in Hollywood 2008, where crowds lined up for hours around the block and stayed open for an additional two months. His studio operates as a corporation due to the demand at various price points from a few thousand dollars up to millions. His market does not follow the conventional gallery model held by blue-chip artists because his demand expands outside the art world, in many markets. Mr.Brainwash is one of the most recognized living artists. He has around a million followers on Instagram, three times that of Jeff Koons, which has the power to influence. Mr. Brainwash has also collaborated with icons such as Madonna, Stan Lee, Pelé, Michele Obama and Pope Francis. It’s just not about the art, but his message that resonates with a wider audience. Only one other artist has captivated the masses around the world as mass-production, media and the rise of celebrities began to appear: Andy Warhol.
It may be too early to make the market comparison, but culturally, Mr. Brainwash is the Warhol of the digital age. His signature works easily translate as vibrant explosions of hues splattered onto flat, graffiti-stenciled, contrasted characters in black and white and usually accompanied by positive text statements. As if adding life by the splatter of his brush onto canvases and sculptures, there is a visual language that Mr. Brainwash has developed that adds connectivity to the viewer that creates value on its own and not necessarily market-driven. It’s fun. It’s an experience. That kind of energy is not easily replicated, and it’s accepted by the masses new found interest in art. What’s next? With a strong following and another market-defying move, it was announced that Mr. Brainwash will be opening his own museum for himself and his peers.
DTR Modern Galleries owner Ted Vassilev is pictured with Mr. Brainwash at a book-signing for the recent publication of Franchise of the Mind (Scala, January 2019), hosted during Art Miami Basel week at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, FL.