Mr. Brainwash is back with another mega-show in L.A.
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Basking somewhere in the messy nexus of art, fame, commerce and shameless self-promotion, Mr. Brainwash -- real name, Thierry Guetta -- is an international art star wrapped Christo-like in several layers of ambiguity. His biggest claim to fame is a starring role in the 2010 Oscar-nominated, pseudo-documentary ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ which casts his dubious rise to fame as a cautionary tale for art-world hacks and poseurs everywhere.
Whatever he is, Mr. Brainwash is back this week with a new mega-show of the sort that only he could mastermind -- which is to say that it is a sprawling, jumbled monstrosity pieced together at the last minute. Having rented out a disused, five-story building in Hollywood, he and his crew have been working in a frenzy this week to fill the enormous space with large-scale sculptures, collages, graffiti and other nominally street-art whats-its. (The building is located at 960 N. La Brea Ave., near Romaine Street.)
The show, which is set to have a ‘preview’ Thursday and then open for a brief run from Dec. 25 to 29, is a follow-up to Mr. Brainwash’s big 2008 L.A. debut, ‘Life Is Beautiful,’ which was catalogued in ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop.’ Since the movie’s release, there has been ample speculation that Mr. Brainwash and the film itself are an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Banksy, the British street artist and director of the documentary.
Mr. Brainwash didn’t shed any more light on the ambiguity during an interview this week. Instead, he deflected questions with proclamations about ‘being here’ and being ‘real,’ only to add that ‘maybe the movie is still happening now.’ (Will there be a sequel? ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop 2: 3-D’?) Earlier this year, The Times ran an investigation of Mr. Brainwash/Guetta that verified many of the biographical details presented in the movie. But questions persist about his connections to Banksy and whether Banksy is in fact pulling the strings of Mr. Brainwash’s ascendant career.
This week’s show isn’t likely to alter any opinions about Mr. Brainwash’s creative talent. Some of the works on display will look familiar to those who attended his 2008 debut. Among the pieces on display: a giant, Warholian spray-paint can resembling a can of tomato soup; a large-scale Polaroid camera sculpture; and a larger-than-life Mr. Potato Head. One room, the artist said, is devoted entirely to street artists who were invited to tag as they saw fit.
Mr. Brainwash is promoting the show as an act of artistic populism. ‘It’s not about selling art,’ he said. ‘It’s about putting on a show.... If I can inspire just one person to follow his dreams, then I will be happy.’
Despite the abundance of skepticism in the media and art world, Mr. Brainwash appears to still have his devotees. On Wednesday, a small group of supporters had already formed a line outside the building, vowing to be the first people to see the show. Or were they paid ‘fans’ hired by Mr. Brainwash himself? Or by Banksy? Are we tired of the games yet?
-- David Ng