Mr. Brainwash has become a name not many like to speak in contemporary art circles. Much like Voldermort of Harry Potter fame, when mentioned people avert their eyes and change topics altogether. It was during Art Basel 2011 that the infamous “Exit through the Gift Shop” Frenchman again set his scopes on Miami and set up shop in the same Collin’s Ave. location.

This year the show was better organized, and seemed to have more overall planning than the 2010 exhibition. Again, much of the work was a cultural mishmash of pop imagery and cultural iconography, with splatters of paint over every square inch.

Online many complaints read, “I’d like him more if he actually produced the work he contrives” or “please, no more spray paint cans”, but Brainwash moves forward like an unstoppable train destined for greatness, and no one will stop him. Even my own personal perspectives (based on my review from last year) have changed in regards to the man. Today I realize that Thierry Guetta is perhaps the art worlds greatest performance artist. Is it all an act? Yes and no, but a performance it truly is.

For those of you still wondering if this is all still a Banksy prank, Mr. Brainwash most definitely is not. In fact, many numerous undisclosed sources have revealed that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was more about reclaiming footage, than a movie about street art. As word goes, Thierry indeed had shot hundreds of hours of street artists at work, including Shepard Fairey and Banksy in their early commercial days. When Banksy and Fairey attempted to reclaim the footage, they ran into a roadblock…namely Thierry himself. It was then that both realized the only way they’d attain the footage of themselves at work, was to tell Thierry they’d make the movie about him. Whether this is art world gossip, or the real deal, there is more than one camp repeating this story.

Additionally, it has also been revealed though various sources that Thierry was a fledging artist during the 1980’s and that some of his concepts (used today) are from that time. Leading one to conclude that although Thierry may not produce the work he presents, he most definitely has the mind of an artist, and that his start may have been earlier than reported.

Why doesn’t Guetta reveal this? It would actually validate his work in some small way within an art community that chastises his every move. Many well known artists often oversee the work they produce, most notably Jeff Koons, so why does Brainwash remain silent?

The answer can be found in plexiglass case that holds Guetta’s hat and glasses in the Miami exhibition. Reminiscent of what one would expect from an traveling museum retrospective on Michael Jackson, this simple display shows that Mr. Brainwash is a force to be reckoned with, an artist above all others, maybe even an pop icon. It’s easy to call him out as a fraud, but Picasso and Dali often sold themselves this way… so why not Brainwash.

It has become clear the artist knows what he’s doing.

It is the goal of Thierry to hold the appearance that he is an upstart, who flips his finger towards the upturned noses and disapproving stares of the art world. Most street and pop artists aim to do this very thing, but rarely have the confidence and showmanship to take it all the way. Mr. Brainwash on the other hand, plays all cards at once.

And why not? Maybe in a world that takes things too seriously we need an artist to remind us that in the end, art is often no more than pictures. A classic work is no more than paint on canvas. To remind us that of our own mortality, the limited life of the art we cherish, and that nothing lasts forever. Thierry seems to push the tenants of love, hope, peace, joy, laughter, love… always stopping for a picture, and to sign an autograph.

Maybe this is all far more clever than at first glance, and Mr. Brainwash is art after all.

– written and photographed by Michael Cuffe for Warholian

For more on Mr. Brainwash, visit his site here: http://www.MrBrainwash.com

To watch a 7 minute walking tour of the 2011 exhibition, hit play below: