‘It’s His Way of Showing That Art Is a Continuum’: Mr. Brainwash Is Mashing Up Art History for His Debut Show in Montreal

It will be the first solo exhibition of the street artist's work in the city.

Mr. Brainwash, Einstein, Thrower and Mickey & Minnie (2018). Courtesy of Galerie de Bellefeuille.

Love him or hate him, Mr. Brainwash, the alias of Paris-born, LA-based Street Pop artist Thierry Guetta, certainly knows how to make headlines. Since appearing in Banksy’s 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, Brainwash has blown up into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon with his works that meld Pop and graffiti aesthetics, with imagery of contemporary cultural icons and the work of fellow street artists.

Now this summer, Mr. Brainwash is the subject of a large-scale solo exhibition at Galerie de Bellefeuille in Montreal, his first in the city. Ahead of the exhibition we spoke with Grégory Cancé, director at the gallery, to find out what Mr. Brainwash fans can expect.  

Mr. Brainwash, Juxtapose (2018). Courtesy of Galerie de Bellefeuille.

This is the first solo show of Mr. Brainwash’s work in Montreal. Can you tell us about the show and how it came together?

Mr. Brainwash is a world star, more than simply an art star, so it has been a priority to bring his work to the city. At the gallery we’ve been following his work for years and it took a lot of time to put this show together. This exhibition represents all of his artistic pursuits: works on paper, canvases, neon works, sculptures. We have a huge Mickey Mouse sculpture for the show that is gorgeous. We wanted to represent everything that he can do and to represent it correctly. He’s known globally but we wanted to show people the work he’s doing now and how that fits in with what he’s done before.

Mr. Brainwash, Mona Lisa Koons (2019).

Mr. Brainwash, Mona Lisa Koons (2019). Courtesy of Galerie de Bellefeuille.

So what is Mr. Brainwash doing now that viewers might not know?  

Of course, he’s known for his street art works which he continues to create and which will be on view here, but more recently he’s developed a Master Paintings series where he recreates these iconic paintings from history and incorporates contemporary elements into them. When he paints a Jeff Koons dog into the Mona Lisa it’s his way of showing that art is a continuum, that art goes on but is also a bridge to the past—in a fun way.

You mentioned that you want to represent him correctly. What do you mean by that? Do you think his work has been misrepresented in the past?

I think the gallery context is very important. We have a huge space, with high ceilings and white walls, right near the museum here. This kind of viewing experience can allow for people to see his work in a new light. Street artists start begins in the street, but Mr. Brainwash’s strength is that he’s able to create many things. His talents go in directions that some street artists can’t or aren’t able to do and this exhibition can let us think about his work in a different light.

Mr. Brainwash, Everyday Life (2019).

Mr. Brainwash, Everyday Life (2019). Courtesy of Galerie de Bellefeuille.

Which works are you most excited about having in the exhibition?

I love the neon works. We have them hung so they are visible from the window, which I enjoy. It’s sort of like seeing the common neon “open” sign from a window, but here it’s the artwork that draws the viewers in. Creating that relationship to the street is nice, especially given Mr. Brainwash’s beginnings. 

Mr. Brainwash is on view at Galerie de Bellefeuille through July 25, 2019. 

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