A FORCE FOR GOOD

- what Mr. Brainwash has taught us about the positive power of art

2012 saw the first visit to London of French street artist Mr. Brainwash, with his battered trilby and unshakeable belief that ‘life is beautiful’. His vibrant paintings, sculptures and installations cheerfully ignored all the rules to simply make art fun and the press and the public loved it; the exhibition caused the biggest buzz since the YBA Sensation exhibition in 1997.

Then in 2021 he was back, and once again, London welcomed him with open arms because he brought with him just what we needed: the most uplifting art experience that the city had seen in quite a while, and a powerful message of positivity for the whole country.

Drawing huge crowds at each public appearance, Mr.Brainwash launched the new Clarendon Fine Art in Covent Garden, and unveiled a giant mural at the newly developed Battersea Power Station.

 

During his visit his art took centre stage at a massive street party when it was beamed onto the façade of the iconic Battersea Power Station in a dazzling light show, sharing his famous mantra. ‘Life is beautiful’, with the people of London – a welcome splash of the colour and fun he creates wherever he goes. Talking to Sky News at Clarendon Fine Art in Covent Garden, he commented that he still feels he has a lot more to give.

Despite his global success and the fact that rising auction prices are making him an increasingly dynamic investment option, “This”, says Mr. Brainwash, “is just the beginning”

So what is it about this unconventional character that has made him the unstoppable force he is in the 2021 art world?

Positivity is paramount in every piece he makes

 

Creatively unrestricted, Mr. Brainwash is an art phenomenon who knows no boundaries. He has transformed himself into a key player in the sphere of street art, the biggest counter-cultural movement since Punk . Combining elements from pop art’s past, from classical paintings and from the raw components of his street art beginnings, he creates larger-than-life celebrations of culture, imagination and sheer audacity. His witty and irreverent juxtapositions use his ‘tags’ - recurring characters ranging from Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein to ‘Balloon Girl’ and ‘the Positive Monkey’ - to create positivity, nostalgia and fun; “Art”, he says, “should never be serious.” His art and his attitude is hard to resist and his positive message is clearly getting through; his meteoric rise to street art powerhouse is almost unbelievable, yet we have documentary evidence that can testify to the extraordinary truth of his backstory.

His backstory is an impossible fairytale that caught the world’s attention

 

Born Thierry Guetta in 1966 just north of Paris, he relocated to LA at 15. Surrounded by film makers, actors and creatives from all walks of life, he began to make films of his own. On a trip to Paris he discovered his cousin had become France’s best-known street artist, Space Invader, and spent hours filming him at work. This was the moment when his obsession with street art was born and he embarked on a documentary film about street art in America. He followed Shepard Fairey, the most famous street artist in the USA, and eventually won an introduction to Banksy, who embraced the project. Hours of footage led to the trio striking a deal, with Thierry handing over the footage in return for support with establishing himself in his new persona as street artist Mr. Brainwash. In 2008, he mounted his now legendary debut show ‘Life is Beautiful’ in LA.

His meteoric rise made history and showed us that anything is possible

 

At the time he was a complete unknown, before the week was out, sales had reached almost $1m, he was on the cover of LA Weekly and the original five day exhibition had been extended to run for three months. ‘Life is Beautiful’ had transformed a vast disused TV studio into a street art spectacular which attracted over 50,000 visitors, making it the most visited private exhibition in history – and all of them were smiling. Overnight, Mr. Brainwash had become what Banksy had described as “a force of nature, a phenomenon”. In 2010 he appeared as the controversial central character in the Oscar nominated documentary film ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’, directed by Banksy who explained that it had begun as a documentary about him and ended up covering a “more interesting subject” – Mr. Brainwash. In the last 10 years, this subversive and playful visionary has established himself on the elite list of the world’s top artists based on auction sales of nearly $2.5million. His meteoric rise has been the largest ever seen in the art market, and is partly due to the challenge he continues to issue to the establishment, flouting convention and creating no holds barred artworks and exhibitions that continue to surprise, stimulate, amuse and encourage his huge worldwide audience.

His admirers and collectors are A-listers from all walks of life

 

Confidently navigating the worlds of cinema, celebrity, music and sport, he has collaborated with partners from Marvel Comics to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, not to mention footballing legend Pele, as well as designing album covers for Madonna, Rick Ross, Michael Jackson, The Black Keys, and KYGO. His extraordinary success has won him commissions and collectors from all walks of life, including the Obamas, the Beckhams, Samuel L Jackson, the Kardashians, Rihanna, Al Pacino and many more.

He is a force for good around the world

 

While his imaginative and often outrageous construction of gallery exhibitions and art shows has continued to attract attention and adulation, there is a more serious side to Mr. Brainwash. While undertaking solo exhibitions and his residency at Art Basel each year he creates every possible opportunity to engage the public in the world of art and convince them that ‘Life is beautiful’. He gives seminars at American universities and international conferences, and is always trying to give something back to the community and the streets that made him. His fundraising activities are wide ranging; as well as supporting organisations such as the Prince’s Trust for the benefit of vulnerable youth, he supports the LA LGBT Center and has partnered with Product RED to raise AIDS awareness. His artwork has given him a platform and allowed him to form some amazing connections, including with former First Lady Michelle Obama in support of her organization Let Girls Learn and with Pope Francis to raise funds for the latter’s youth foundation, Scholas.

His appeal crosses continents – life is beautiful in every language

 

Mr. Brainwash has taken his large scale art extravaganzas all over the world, making headlines in the US, Europe and Japan. In June 2016, he opened his first exhibition in South Korea at The ARA Modern Art Museum in Insa-dong in Seoul. The spectacular solo show featured larger than life mixed media murals, a 15ft tall wooden AT-AT from the Star Wars movie franchise and a room full of hanging vintage cameras – a touching tribute to his own development as an artist which began behind a camera. In 2018, in New York City, the Starrett-Lehigh skyrise became a multi-story installation raising funds for cancer charity ‘It’s a Thing’. Full of art historical references and neon lights, ‘It’s a Thing’ was an Instagram-ready installation that became a social media sensation with its messages of positivity and vibrant, large scale statements. All the artwork was created specifically for this show. and included a wall full of framed mirrors features upbeat slogans - “You Are Amazing” ,“Love Makes the Difference”, “Keep Smiling” - in neon lights. This is feel good art at its best.

He is grounded with a message we can all relate to

 

With fans all over the world and high profile collectors both famous and infamous, Mr. Brainwash has become a celebrity in his own right, but he remains grounded, pointing out with his signature grin that “everybody is a celebrity for someone. Firstly, I’m a Pop artist—a street Pop artist. But when I work with celebrities it’s about people. People who had a dream and let it happen. They showed that you can become a legend if you want to be. These people had a dream and but they didn’t give up. They let it happen. And that is what I want to show the other people. The message is never, never, never give up. Follow your dreams. Love is the answer, life is beautiful. When you see those iconic people, you realize they are all just people, just like you and me. They become iconic because of what they do.”

His star is still rising and he is a hugely exciting investment prospect

So what’s next?

 

In the story so far, no sooner does a plan start to form in his imagination than it’s coming to fruition, and in the blink of an eye he’s been there, done that, and conquered the next big challenge. It seems that whatever he sets his mind to will happen – as he says himself, “I have learned something after doing it so many times: I always pull it off. That’s what my answer is in my head. Whatever I do, I just do it. I don’t think, I have two hours, three hours, ten hours, two days, whatever—I always work and make it happen. I just don’t give up.” Positivity to the people! He has come full circle from his first ever solo show in LA in 2008 and is in the process of opening his own museum at the former Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.

He describes this opportunity as a dream come true, as it will allow him complete freedom to express himself. Anticipation is mounting as to what that phrase might mean in the light of his existing oeuvre which certainly doesn’t hold back. “I want to show different sides of myself—all I have kept inside for so many years. Imagine a pressure cooker, about to explode. That’s me!”

The art world waits.