Mr Brainwash

Controversial artist Thierry Guetta named himself Mr. Brainwash (MBW) because “the whole movement of art is about brainwashing.” The French-born artist started off videotaping local street artists, moving his way up to taping the likes of Shepard Fairey and Banksy. According to the Banksy-directed Exit Through the Giftshop, after seeing a rough cut of Guetta’s film, Banksy decided to trade places. He took control of the film and shooed Guetta off to try his hand at art.

They should have known that someone with the obsessiveness of Guetta was not going to go half way. He mortgaged his house an sold off everything he could to procure screen prints and a large staff of artists. In the style of Andy Warhol, he came up with the ideas and delegated the work to the artists, who for the most part scanned the images then photoshopped them. “I’m going to make it, I’m going to come like, ‘This is what I want to make and I want this like that.'”


Banksy went above and beyond to help Guetta, sending his own people to help him out, and provided a promotional quote which he was later surprised to learn Guetta blew up and posted on the sides of buildings. Soon there were insinuations that Guetta appropriated art from people like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, though his biggest influence is clearly Warhol. As Banksy says in the documentary,

Most artists spend years perfecting their craft, finding their style, and Terry seems to have missed out on all of those bits. I mean there is no one like Terry, even if his work looks quite a lot like everyone else’s.

Besides being influenced by other artists, at least one work was a straight up copy of a famous photograph by Henry Diltz, and photographer Glen E. Friedman has sued Guetta over is use of a photograph of Run DMC.

But the whole time he was working in Exit Through the Gift Shop, Guetta appeared to be trying to impress Banksy, taking the command to make art as an order from up on high. Maybe he didn’t pay his dues making art, but he was certainly apprenticing. He was right there risking his ass climbing buildings and helping with the guerilla art.

The exhibit was a hodge-podge of every possible artistic medium. Canvases included ovens and refrigerators, cars and tires. The building itself became a cancas. The doors, the floors, the stairwells and the window panes were all covered with stickers and spray paint.

Even the more traditional works had a whimsical spin on them, with Michael Jackson’s hair being made out of record albums, Colonel Sanders stuck in a chicken cage, and a painting of Benjamin Franklin wearing headphones that emerged from the 2-dimensional realm to attach to a real radio.

It’s still unclear as to whether we have an overnite sensation, or if the street artists have created a monster. Or maybe he is another one of Banksy’s artworks. As Guetta states at the end of Exit Through the Gift Shop, “With time you will see my creativity; you will see if im a real artist or not.”

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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