February 17, 2010  |  Uncategorized

The day after


What has to be the final nail in the “Street Art” coffin was driven in last weekend by none other than MR. BRAINWASH (aka: “The Christian Audigier of Street Art”) when he opened his massive, self-produced “Icons” show in a rented space (which, ironically, was once a real art gallery, pre-recession) in the heart of Chelsea. As the subject of Brit Street Art king Banksy’s recent docu-parody film, “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” MBW has been the focus of much hype and speculation as his presence finally seeps into the fairly muddy stream of mainstream consciousness. Last week’s Wall Street Journal article articulated this particularly well:

“Fueling the buzz around Mr. Brainwash is that no one knows exactly who the 44-year-old is. Some Web sites have speculated that he may be an invented character, part of a performance-art hoax. Others think he may, in fact, be the popular British street artist Banksy, whose face has never been shown on camera … “Maybe I am Banksy,” says the enigmatic artist, who says his real name is Thierry Guetta and speaks in a thick French accent. “Maybe not.”

Of course, the most amusing part of all this dumbfounded hypothesizing is how real—and accessible—Mr. Brainwash actually is. Far from actually being Banksy or any other legitimately mysterious street art phantom, MBW is simply Thierry Guetta, aka “French Terry,” a Los Angeles-based French transplant who cut his teeth in recent years by following around the architects of the scene, Shepard Fairey and Banksy, camera in hand, capturing film of them in action for what was to be his own documentary on street art. In the process, Guetta was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his idols and ultimately passed through the looking glass, assuming the incredibly ridiculous moniker of “Mr. Brainwash.” Guetta then forged a visual identity for himself by mining literally every Pop Art gimmick of the past 50 years and running it through the stylistic filter of Fairey and Banksy to achieve his own heavily derivative results. Of course, this would all be an act of genius (or at least considerable humor) if French Terry was doing it as a grand act of parody, skewering the scene he had been so closely observing for all its inherent gimmickry and blasé appropriation. In the process of his conversion, however, French Terry, like the computers in so many Sci-Fi tales, became self-aware, and convinced that he himself was in fact a true artist and the bona-fide “next big thing” of street art. Enter Banksy…

Convinced that Terry—due to his own directorial ineptitude or self-possessed drive to become a street artist himself—would never finish the original film as planned and recognizing the inherent absurdity of the would-be filmmaker’s hilarious conversion, Banksy did what he does best and flipped the tables by taking possession of Guetta’s reels and creating a new documentary with his own team. Focused not on himself or Shepard Fairey as originally intended, “Exit Through The Gift Shop” would instead chronicle French Terry’s amazing transformation as a metaphor for the absurdity of the street art world and Banksy’s own brilliant “take a sucker for all they’re worth” ethos. The result was billed by Banksy as “The world’s first street art disaster movie,” with the film’s trailer showing footage of Terry spilling paint in his truck and walking into signposts while quotes like “in a world with no rules, one man broke them all,” flashed across the screen. You could almost hear the sound of journalists scratching their heads at screenings in Park City (Sundance) and Berlin.

Dateline, February 12, 2010: Following up his self-produced June 2008 one man show in LA (that was itself a direct copy of Banksy’s epic solo show there two years earlier) that was held in a cavernous old abandoned TV studio facilitated by his family’s extensive real estate holdings and chronicled in depth here on Supertouch, French Terry unveils the East Coast installment of his street art apocalypse with the opening of “Icons” at a massive rented defunct gallery space in Chelsea. Featuring an equally absurd array of Warhol-derived celebrity portraiture (using silkscreen and splatter paint along with broken 45 records as his prime medium), mixed with Claes Oldenburg-style object sculpture, and exact replicas of Banksy-style found old master hotel room paintings featuring modern ironic interventionist touches (ie: P-Diddy raising the roof in a Renoir style oil painting) with prices ranging up to the—hold your breath—$300,000 mark, the show was pure MBW through and through. And while serious art collectors scoffed, knowing that the only reason French Terry was going rogue to such extent in NYC (aside from the obvious financial gains of having no gallery to cut in on the take) was because no serious art gallery would touch him, new money suckers and socialites were lining up to fork over the green to invest in the street art equivalent of Bear Stearns. Of course, MBW loyalists would cite his sold out show of work at SoHo’s Opera Gallery late last year as evidence of a real art career, but Opera is simply a tourist art gallery dabbling heavily in so-called “lowbrow” and “street art” of late (with a heavily funded/deluded client base, no less).

So what’s the take away here? Do we love French Terry for what he is? Deride him for who he thinks he is? Embrace him for bringing laughter to our hearts and lips? In the end, we at Supertouch are left to mine our own previous coverage of MBW’s Los Angeles show to deliver an apt closing moral:

“To call last nite’s opening of newly minted and ridiculously named “artist” MR BRAINWASH an “art show” would be a disservice to artists everywhere and even Mr Brainwash himself. Instead, let’s call it what it really is: a grand art prank of epic proportions. A heist. A spoof. A joke. Or maybe just the biggest, funnest, sloppiest high school art fair of all time … In the words of one of LA’s most pioneering street art provocateurs, Skullphone, “if Disneyland wanted to open a street art ride, this is what they’d have done.”

Our prediction for French Terry’s next big project? Our money’s fully on the Mr. Brainwash clothing line by Christian Audigier. It’s just too bad Michael Jackson’s not around to see it (or this show), he would have eaten it up…


Photos by Rich Drogpa, Brian Jung, and D-Knatt

The day after

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.57.11 AM



Tire man 2
KAWS, anyone???…

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.59.01 AM



Carlos Santana 2


Ray Charles

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.58.11 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.35.51 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.37.02 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.00.07 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.35.35 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.34.56 AM

Barry White 2

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.59.21 AM


MBW maximizes profit on his commissioned Madonna portrait…

…and lays rightful claim to the title of “Boy Toy”

MBW rakes it in off the Material Girl…

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.14.55 AM

Charlie Chaplin and Valentine paint


Quiet the day after

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.34.26 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.05.09 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.08.56 AM

Barry White and boom box

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.14.33 AM

The best piece in the show…


Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.12.57 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.04.21 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.02.00 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.59.57 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.59.32 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.01.40 AM



Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.56.55 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 9.58.33 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.05.09 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.00.25 AM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 10.00.48 AM

French Terry holds court before his masses…

Comments are closed.