Mr. Brainwash: Life Is Beautiful Pop-Up Opens Under Highline


The artist known as Mr. Brainwash became instantly famous in 2010 when the already-hugely-famous artist Banksy released his Academy Award-nominated documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. This is a fantastic, often very funny film–if you've never seen it, give yourself a Netflix treat soon–that tells the supposedly true story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles who turns his obsession with graffiti and street art into… well I won't reveal the ending, except to say that in real life Guetta becomes the smashingly successful Mr. Brainwash, who is right now hosting yet another big pop-up exhibition here in New York City in the Meatpacking District. Adding to the excitement, as always: the persistent (though false) rumors that Mr. Brainwash is, in fact, Banksy himself! And with Banksy's amazing-looking "theme park" Dismaland opening in the coastal town of Weston-super-Mare, UK, and generating an enormous amount of hype, it seems likely that the Mr. Brainwash show will only get more popular.  


Mr. Brainwash: Life Is Beautiful

The Mr. Brainwash pop-up gallery exhibition is called Life Is Beautiful, and it is crammed-full with Guetta's signature mash-ups, parodies, and clever renderings of pop culture icons. Mickey Mouse, Bob Marley, Caitlyn Jenner, Star Wars storm troopers, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Jerry Seinfeld, Batman, and even Banksy himself all are given the Mr. Brainwash treatment, which usually entails a mix of humor and (somewhat) biting social commentary. Make no mistake, though, this a very safe, very family-friendly show, and its location right at the base of the High Line stairs is guaranteed to attract legions of tourists. It's fun and chaotic, but it's not subversive in any sort of meaningful way.


Family Friendly Fun at The Highline

Another favorite method of Mr. Brainwash is to take a famous, classic painting or sculpture and updating it in some trashily-pop way. For example: turning Warhol's tomato soup can into tomato soup SPRAY can; or putting a copy of Vogue, Nicki Minaj on the cover, in the hands of one of Norman Rockwell's characters. And in addition to all of the art (like his last show Icons, Life Is Beautiful packs in as many works as is physically possible, leaning stuff up against the wall, piling sculptures on top of sculptures), Mr. Brainwash also throws in seating (much appreciated by tired tourists) and mountains of vintage tech-tools like typewriters, telephones, and tape machines. There are old toys by the score here as well, including tons of grimy stuffed animals and unloved action figures. None of it is aesthetically revelatory–in fact, Mr. Brainwash unabashedly steals his ideas from the likes of Vic Muniz, Andy Warhol, and, again, and maybe especially, his patron Banksy–but it is entertaining, and a great place to bring out of town visitors once you get tired of the High Line.


Where and When To See Mr. Brainwash: Life Is Beautiful

Mr Brainwash: Life Is Beautiful is located on 14th Street just east of 10th Avenue, and is open through 


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