Banksy Wannabe Mr. Brainwash Unveils 9/11 Mural at WTC

The artist may be fake, but the mediocre art is real.

Detail from Mr. Brainwash's 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.Photo: Benjamin Sutton.
Detail from Mr. Brainwash's 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.
Mr. Brainwash's 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

Mr. Brainwash’s 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

We’re still not sure to make of Mr. Brainwash, the breakout star of Banksy‘s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), but the artist’s latest work, a 9/11 mural plastered on a downtown department store adjacent to the World Trade Center site, is quite real. The giant artwork was completed just in time for today’s 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

As reported by Gawker, the new work is a pastiche of patriotic clichés: a giant American flag, a stream of water from a fire fighter’s hose forming a large heart, and the phrase “We love New York.” It’s bland and toothless, and vaguely corporate.

Detail from Mr. Brainwash's 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

Detail from Mr. Brainwash’s 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

The lingering question in the wake of the film that made Mr. Brainwash a star is whether or not he exists at all. Many still suspect the mid-film transformation of Banksy fan boy and would-be documentary filmmaker Thierry Guetta into an artist in his own right was a carefully staged stunt by Banksy.

The general consensus is that Mr. Brainwash makes for a pretty mediocre artist, derivatively riffing off the work of others. But if he is in fact an elaborate Banksy prank, he’s fairly incredible. Guetta’s meteoric rise serves as a scathing critique of an art market that places little emphasis on the work itself and will blindly follow anyone who, like the well-connected Mr. Brainwash, has enough money and fame behind him.

Mr. Brainwash's 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

Mr. Brainwash’s 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

This latest work, which does little to disprove theories that Mr. Brainwash is just another Banksy creation, was commissioned by department store Century 21, and will be on view for the next three weeks.

“When Mr. Brainwash came to us with this idea we were honored,” Century 21 co-owner Isaac Gindi said in a statement. “We are such big fans of his work and loved the idea of showing our support and dedication for the Downtown community and NYC’s bravest and finest right on our building. His piece exemplifies a tribute to the resiliency of New York City and all Americans after 9/11.”

Detail from Mr. Brainwash's 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

Detail from Mr. Brainwash’s 9/11 mural across the street from the WTC site at Century 21.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.


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