Mr. Brainwash, aka, Thierry Guetta, became a fairly well-known street artist thanks to the unusual and entertaining documentary Exit From the Gift Shop. The film is unusual because it was shot by street artist/prankster Banksy, and it led many people to believe that Banksy created Mr. Brainwash as an elaborate hoax. Since the artist Mr. Brainswash is never actually seen doing any of the artwork, and has admitted much of his work is done by others after he explains the idea to them, the question of whether Mr. Brainwash is actually an artist is a hot debate among those who care.
Because Mr. Brainwash also takes existing art and makes it into new art, his work also falls under the same kind of scrutiny that another Day in the Life subject, Girl Talk, faces.
Mr. Brainwash Makes For Best Day in the Life Yet
Those looking to see if Mr. Brainwash is a hoax or not will not be getting answers in the season finale of Morgan Spurlock’s Day in the Life, but it is probably the best episode in the series. Unlike every episode before it, we get to see the subject’s artistic “process,” something we didn’t see with ballet dancer Misty Copeland, stand up comedian Russell Peters, Girl Talk, or will.i.am. This has been a frustrating series to watch for that very reason.
Here’s the trailer for the Mr. Brainwash episode:
Thierry Guetta is a French transplant in Los Angeles, and he’s quite the character. The first thing we see him do is go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market to go pick up what amounts to junk, but he’s picking up a lot of junk. A truckload of paintings, figurines, statues, but as he says, “I don’t know what I’m looking for.” He’s just looking for whatever hits him the right way.
Then we get to see Mr. Brainwash at his home. He has a wife of over 20 years and two kids (one with a parrot sitting on his shoulder). He definitely has a strong unit of people behind him: his family and his crew. It’s here where Mr. Brainwash says, “Some people don’t like what I do, I don’t care, that’s their right. We live in a free country where you can do what you want.” The art that Mr. Brainwash creates may not even be considered art by some people, and it may not even be considered “created” by Mr. Brainwash, but divisiveness has never been something from which any artists have shied away. Controversy fuels legitimacy and dollars.
Now we get to see Mr. Brainwash “create,” or if you prefer, “articulate what he sees so others can create it.” He has a huge metal construction of an elephant, and at first he’s thinking of wrapping posters all around it, something he’s done before. But then, “I have an idea…I have an idea…” he says over and over. The idea is to make it look like the elephant is stomping on a paint can and all sorts of colors are coming out. Enter the giant 12-foot can of Campbell’s “Tomato Spray,” likely from one of Mr. Brainwash’s other exhibits, and a constant reminder of the Andy Warhol influence on this type of art.
There’s also a great scene where Brainwash talks about how they keep track of everyone who has a piece of his art. To ensure that the paintings he sells are the originals, he puts a drop of blood inside a heart on the back of every canvas, and a torn dollar bill. The back of the canvas usually has some other graffiti and signatures strewn across it, and the funny thing is, some people take it home and hang it up on the wall facing backwards. They hang the back part of the canvas facing out.
Whether Mr. Brainwash is a hoax, a fraud, or a genuine artist, this episode of Day in the Life benefits from his eccentricity. It’s a good note to go out on for your season finale, and hopefully if there are future episodes of this series, it will take a cue from this particular one.