Traddling the boundary between art and vandalism, the world of street art is often shrouded in secrecy. And perhaps never more so than when it comes to French artist, Mr. Brainwash. Love him or not, Mr. Brainwash's works are a smart investment. Having risen to the status of a global icon in less than a decade, his modern artwork and eccentric behaviour seem to both entertain and infuriate fans and critics alike. Mr. Brainwash art prints sell for increasingly high amounts and yet the man stirs up new controversy with every new show he presents. Anthony Chrisp, one of our in-house art experts, is always excited when a Mr. Brainwash original or print edition is offered up for our International Street & Urban Art auction, and with good reason. But just who is this mysterious man and what makes his works a smart investment? Find out here.
Who is Mr. Brainwash?
Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash, was introduced to street art in the 2000s as an amateur videographer. His career developed over the next decade and he was catapulted into the limelight when he starred in fellow street artist Banksy's Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary 'Exit Through the Gift Shop'. In the film he is shown to be unapologetically bizarre.
So why the name? In his own words: “When you watch TV, when you buy clothes, when you come to a bar or a club or when you do anything, how do you get there? Everything’s brainwashing, and I used to take any kind of brand and twist it...I couldn’t use my name when I started doing street art, so I remembered Mr. Brainwash and decided to use it.”
Now based in LA, the artist has largely remained an enigmatic confusion, although his popularity is undeniable. He’s designed artworks for legends like Madonna, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Coca-Cola and continues to make sensationally warped pop culture chaos artworks.
An irreverent twisting of copyrighted, “brainwashing” material. That may be Mr. Brainwash’s art in its simplest form. “I would take Nike, and I’d make the logo exactly the same, but with an arrow, and I’d write under it, ‘Just did it.’ Instead of Kids ‘R’ Us, I’d put Boys Are Nuts.” His works appropriate and juxtapose modern and historic icons, pop-culture images, globally recognised brands, art history and even work by other artists.
The colour, energy and humour Mr. Brainwash brings to the art world is certainly refreshing. But the sheer extravagance and far-fetched nature of the artist and his work has previously called his authenticity into question.
Is Mr. Brainwash Real?
After Banksy released 'Exit Through the Gift Shop', people immediately began speculating about its authenticity. Thierry Guetta seemed a little too strange to be real; artists are often eccentric, but this Frenchman took it to another level. Multiple sources speculated that Guetta was just an actor hired by Banksy, that his work looked like Banksy trying to imitate himself and that perhaps the elusive street artist was pulling the ultimate prank. Banksy however has always maintained Mr. Brainwash's authenticity. So what does Anthony Chrisp think? “I guess at the end of the day, does it even matter? Good marketing is just as important as skills with a paintbrush. Controversy creates cash and in a scene shrouded in secrecy we may never really know. However with works hanging in important collections and in galleries around the world, sell out shows and print releases and steadily increasing auction results, Mr. Brainwash is here to stay.”
Investing in Mr. Brainwash
There are many reasons why Mr. Brainwash art is a smart investment. His quick rise to commercial success says a lot for his artworks and the experts, including Anthony, firmly believe that his works are here to stay. The continued interest in his works plus being endorsed by other renowned street artists makes his art is a smart investment opportunity. And whether Mr. Brainwash started out sincerely, or as part of an elaborate hoax, his artworks stand firmly as a public favourite and collectors are certainly willing to pay greatly for his art. Just how greatly?
One of, if not the most expensive Mr. Brainwash paintings ever sold was ‘Charlie Chaplin Pink’. It sold in 2010, the same year as the release of Banksy’s documentary, for €100,000 which was on the high end of the expert’s estimate.
Some original Mr. Brainwash paintings have also come up for auction on Catawiki. One particularly impressive example was an original painting titled ‘Madonna “Brainwashed”’. It came from a private collection in London. With a well-established provenance and bearing Mr. Brainwash’s unique signature it sold for €3,100 in 2017. The buyer made an excellent investment that day.
‘Madonna “Brainwashed”’ by Mr. Brainwash sold on our International Street & Urban Art auction for €3,100 in 2017
So what are the best investments? Aside from original paintings, Anthony advises to look for signed prints "A signed print will always be a better investment then an unsigned litho poster."
Art cannot be criticised, because every mistake is a new creation.
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