When Mr Brainwash exploded onto the LA scene in 2008 with his debut show he created a sensation. Although at the time he was a complete unknown, before the week was out his 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 cavernous disused TV studio into a street art spectacular which attracted over 50,000 visitors, making it the most visited private exhibition in history. Overnight, Mr Brainwash, AKA Thierry Guetta, an unknown French street artist, had become what Banksy described as “a phenomenon”. He was indeed unstoppable; in the last 10 years, this subversive and playful visionary has been placed on the elite list of the world’s top artists based on auction sales of nearly $2.5million and his meteoric rise has been the largest ever seen in the Art Market.
Innovative and fearless, the work of Mr Brainwash embraces a riot of themes and styles, statements and jokes, commentary and chaos. 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. Multi-layered, both literally and metaphorically, his work represents a huge melting pot of influences and ideas and is an orchestrated collision of street art and pop art that has challenged cultural norms and made him a legend. 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.” The backdrops for these characters frequently reference his favourite musicians, film producers, comic book characters and famous artworks, paying homage to Warhol, Haring, Banksy, Basquiat and more. Confidently navigating the worlds of cinema, celebrity, music and sport, Mr. Brainwash 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.
In 2010, Mr Brainwash appeared as the controversial central character in the Oscar nominated documentary film Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by Banksy and including much of Mr Brainwash’s own footage. The film charts the unconventional rise of an art phenomenon who began as a maverick film maker but transformed himself into a key player in the sphere of street art, the biggest counter-cultural movement since Punk, and brought Mr Brainwash and his art to even greater prominence. In the same year he presented Icons, a second major exhibition in New York City for which he created portraits of legendary musicians using broken records, including a portrait of Jim Morrison which reputedly sold for $100,000.