Artmarketing Lesson From Mr.Brainwash & Banksy

Quick edit in OBEY style 
Recently I watched "Exit through the giftshop" - the Banksy movie for the second time and I won´t get into detail, or do a review, since these exist from far better sources.
I just assume that you´ve seen the movie (trailer here) or know the outlines, to understand the following.

I think that it is a really good exercise about marketing, if you ever want to get an idea of how the artmarket does work, this documentary is a must see.

The sad message and my conclusion first: Really successful art comes not from artists it comes from marketers, and marketers are liars (according to Seth Godin) A marketer can be anyone. And since the profession artist isn´t protected, everyone can proclaim to be an artist if in reality he is a salesman, because thats what Thierry Guetta, pretty obviously, is to me.

The even more sad part of the message is that artist like Banksy and Shepard Fairey who worked a decade on building a reputation through Streetart in the art market, can watch their art being auctioned on the secondary market for 50k $ (-and up) while they have sold it in the first place for literally, an apple and an egg.

Here´s why this will never happen to Mr. Brainwash due to his unique art marketing method:
  • He makes mostly derivatives of known imagery, this increases recognizability (Warhol principle)
  • Makes even more parody, or different takes on even more known imagery
  • Learns from the best of the scene to know what works and what is possible to achieve
  • He does make sales beginning at the upper prize segment and avoids the apple and egg problem
  • Uses quotes from well known artists to boost credibility in the media and public relations
  • Is confident enough to invest a lot of money to create rather an event than just an artshow
  • Knows how Damien Hirst and other big-players run their business and outsources the creative aspects of the work and concentrates on generating just the ideas and delegating tasks
  • Appears in a movie with well known artists to underline the value of his work as promotion for his upcoming artshows and to deliver a story that is meant to be told, describing him as a phenomenon
  • Has no problems with reproducing stuff and copyrights at all, because he is not an educated artist and therefore has not to worry about that matter, because the public doesn´t do either
As silly as it sounds, these are the shortcuts to success that no artschool ever teaches, and a concept that cannot be franchised. To be honest, in my humble opinion it will only work for non-artists, because artists are usually a very passionate folk and do rather work and create fancy ways to standout rather than to please others with the tenth derivation of a work that the public already knows.

The good thing I see in this development, is that when streetart has become the potential to be marketable on the stock market and places like Christies, its just a question of time when digital art can do that. Because screen printing is not art, its a technique and if an artist utilizes it- the result CAN be art.

Fact is that there is not much difference between streetart and the internet or digital art, if you have a message with your creation and you don´t hesitate to post it everywhere on the net and dare to make it viral, the effect is similar to a Banksy graffity between two telephone booths.

The biggest question is to ask ourself what we really want. Banksy has left the actual grafitti-scene because he wasn´t really good at it and devoted his style towards the stencils. When he crossed the borders between street and fine art, he switched to installations which even better transported his messages. My conclusion is also that Mr. Brainwash reflects the extreme of a "worst thing that could happen" to the art world. And its interesting to see that it would not have happened if Banksy wouldn´t existed - he may benefit from Guetta´s success, but its a sad event to know that one is the cause of such a "worst case scenario".

Which obviously lead to the thought if Mr.Brainwash really exist or is it a figure created by Banksy to just smack the artworld? Even if it is an experiment that should only show WHAT is possible to achieve, its a big slap in the face of everyone who believes this stuff, because it shows that artists are replaceable by cogs in the machine.
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. I work with advertising and marketing and i must say that mr. brainwash it is definetely a case study.

    He took profit of something that was growing, getting popular and cult at the same time: streetart. Banksy showed to the world how much money one can take out of it. However, there wasnt much artists selling their art.

    That sums up to: high demand versus low offer. Somebody had to surf that wave.

    What Mr brain did was to create a factory, he 'took inpiration' out of other artists work, then hired people to do it. ALmost like creating a product.
    Then to promote him, to create an aura of 'artist' around him, he used banksy testemonial. Much like any commercial with a celebrity in it.

    That was it.

    I think he is a modern version of Andy Warhol but, like bansky said, in a bad way.



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