Review – It is not an easy feat for an emerging artist to make a splash in London, during the Olympics or at anytime for that matter . But here we have Thierry Guetta AKA Mr Brainwash coming onto the London scene and doing just that.
Mr Brainwash was made in heaven for the tabloids. He is a caricature of a modern French artist. He has shed the beret for a trilby, wears paint splattered clothes and looks like a demented Harpo Marx. The public and the press love it. I haven’t seen a buzz like this for an art exhibition since the YBA’s. But is this an art exhibition or is this a club night, with art hanging on the walls. Will we ever know? Mr Brainwash’s art is so bad it’s good. It is kitsch multiplied by twenty! Here we have a melding of popular culture meets the production line, produced in a pastiche of ‘Street Art’ style, combined with Warhol and the kitchen sink! I usually know what I’m looking at and most of this work I have seen before. Mostly by another artist’s hand, whether it be Banksy, Warhol, Hirst or Richter. None of it is original and anyone not agreeing with me would be diluted to have an argument in favour of accepting this stab at mass marketing.
Tonight was a party! Take 1000 people and make them stand in a queue for over an hour and a half, regardless of whether they are celebrities, press or the public. Ply them with free drinks, thank you Coca Cola ‘Burn’ a kind of Red Bull hybrid that tastes like cough syrup mixed with vodka, quite moorish. Transform an industrial space into Ibiza with a top international DJ (the Grammy award-winning DJ and Producer David Guetta, no relation) and you have the formula for success right? Well not quite right.
The space was filled with paintings, sculpture, performance and installation works. Some was acceptably well executed, some God awful and some with the conceptual sensibility of a twelve year old. Sorry, this may be condescending to a preteen’s mind-set. Brainwash is a nice bloke. I want to like this work but it leaves me questioning the entire state of the art market, on all levels. Like fast food, instead of satisfying, it actually aggravates my sensibility and my stomach. Is it just taking the piss a bit too far? Yes! But I repeat, the problem I have with Brainwash is he is so bad he’s good. You can’t get away from it. He has a cheerful, feel good persona . You can’t help liking him. He poses, he’s happy and he makes you feel good.
The work is a cliche on legs. kate Moss and Madonna, the Queen, King Kong in rubber tires, a couple of actors dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader’ and the tag “May the Art Be With You” sprayed on the wall. These props are worthy of an ad agency, just eye-candy with empty content, beyond any corporate art I have seen. This is not the work of a serious contemporary artist in 2012. What I did see below the surface was the cash cow generation and the blatant commerciality. Maybe this is the whole point of Brainwash or is that giving him too much credit? isn’t it just too obvious?
Where the work really falls down is with pieces like the giant spray angel, an oversized aerosol can, dressed as an angel and a number of Banksy style portraits of famous folk in gold frames. George Washington dressed as Mr Brainwash and a frightening full length portrait of the Queen.
What I did like was the wall of artists done in a Warhol style, defaced with Dan Colen style type-face, on the surface. I also liked the Richter style Micheal Jackson portraits, A series that moved as you walked. The Jim Dine style heart in paint cans and the Olympic rings were also worth noting.
The “Exit Through The Gift Shop” star needs an editor. Someone to direct him. Maybe a Larry Gagosian. This would truely be a scarey union and the final nail in the coffin for contemporary art, as we know it!!! Is this body of work good enough to sustain the buzz? Will it sell? We will soon find out.
Photo © ArtLyst 2012