MR BRAINWASH – Banksy’s Over-the-Top Protégé

Audacious and unapologetic, Mr Brainwash presents the viewer with a collision of street art and pop art. He liberates the space of ‘high-art’, breaking codes and conventions to create instantly accessible imagery for all. But the results are carefully orchestrated. He appropriates iconic images of two twentieth-century stars, Pablo Picasso and Kate Moss. The juxtaposition locates Picasso, arguably the most influential artist of the 20th Century, within the realm of celebrity. The message is simple: Picasso and Moss are both icons because of what they do.

MR BRAINWASH (French/North American, b. 1966)
Picasso 2011 (detail)
mixed media on canvas on board
91.5 x 61cm

Moss is to Mr Brainwash as Marylin Monroe was to Andy Warhol. As a self-proclaimed Pop artist, the cult of the celebrity occupies an important role within Mr Brainwash’s practice. But he is not interested in deconstructing the phenomenon as a product of the mass media, or the slippage between the real and the ideal. His passion lies with the possibility and promise of individuals who realise their dreams to life. As he stated:      

“It’s about people, people who had a dream and let it happen. They show that you can become a legend if you want to be. These people had a dream, 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, you know? 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.2

Here, Mr Brainwash reinforces his message with the vibrant pink word LOVE across the composition, as though freshly painted by Picasso.

Mr Brainwash, a pseudonym for Thierry Guetta, navigates between the works of film, celebrity culture, music, sport and contemporary art. He has created album covers for Madonna, and his works of art were curated into the television series Billions. After discovering the secret identity of his cousin as the street artist Space Invader, Guetta created a film documenting his cousin’s life and work. This led him to Shepard Fairey and then Banksy, who suggested Guetta should try creating street art.

JANE MESSENGER / Independent Writer

December 2020


1 Sarah Cascone, “On View”, ArtNet News, 26 October 2018

2 Thierry Guetta quoted in Cait Munro, “Galleries”, ArtNet News, 22 May 2015