Graffiti or greatness? Vandalism or vision? Rebellion or revolution? Guests on board the Cunard Queens are warmly invited to take part in this, and many other artistic debates by attending one of Clarendon Fine Art’s popular seminars next time they sail. In this example, the seminar 'Street Art; From Banksy to Mr. Brainwash', Clarendon’s engaging art consultants discuss the history of street art, from the earliest examples to the inspirations and artworks of the modern icons of themovement – Banksy and Mr. Brainwash. Alongside each seminar there will be exhibitions of original artwork and editions from these undoubted stars of the international art market, as well as some emerging names within the portfolio.


So, who is Mr. Brainwash, and why have collectors around the world fallen in love with him?

The positive power of art

French street artist Mr. Brainwash, with his battered trilby and unshakeable belief that ‘life is beautiful’, first visited London, UK, in 2012. His vibrant paintings, sculptures and installations cheerfully ignored all the rules to simply make art fun, and people loved it; the exhibition caused a buzz not unlike the YBA Sensation exhibition in 1997. In 2021, he was back and brought just what the UK needed – one of the most uplifting art experiences that London had seen in quite a while, and a powerful message of positivity for the whole country.


Drawing huge crowds at each public appearance, Mr. Brainwash launched the new Clarendon Fine Art gallery in Covent Garden. During the visit, his art took centre stage at a massive street party when it was beamed onto the façade of the iconic Battersea Power Station in a dazzling light show, sharing his famous mantra, Life is Beautiful, with the people of London. Creatively unrestricted, Mr. Brainwash is an art phenomenon who knows no boundaries. He has transformed himself into a key player in street art, one of the most significant counter-cultural movements since punk.


Combining elements from pop art’s past, classical paintings and the raw components of his street art beginnings, he creates celebrations of culture, imagination and sheer audacity. His witty and irreverent juxtapositions use his ‘tags’ – recurring characters ranging from Einstein to ‘Balloon Girl’ – to create positivity, nostalgia and fun. “Art,” he says, “should never be serious.”

Catching the world's attention

Born Thierry Guetta in 1966 just north of Paris, he relocated to LA at 15. Surrounded by filmmakers, actors and other creatives, he began to make films of his own. On a trip to Paris, he discovered that his cousin had become France’s best-known street artist, Space Invader, and spent hours filming him. His obsession with street art was born, and he embarked on a documentary film about street art in America. He followed Shepard Fairey, the most famous street artist in the US, and eventually won an introduction to Banksy, who embraced the project. Hours of footage led to the trio striking a deal, with Thierry handing over the footage in return for support with establishing himself in his new persona as street artist Mr. Brainwash. In 2008, he mounted his now legendary debut show, Life is Beautiful, in LA. Life is Beautiful had transformed a vast disused TV studio into a street art spectacular that attracted more than 50,000 visitors, making it the most visited private exhibition in history.


Overnight, Mr. Brainwash had become what Banksy described as ‘a force of nature, a phenomenon’. In 2010, he appeared as the controversial central character in the Oscar-nominated documentary Exit through the Gift Shop, directed by Banksy, who explained that it had begun as a documentary about him and ended up covering a ‘more interesting subject’ – Mr. Brainwash. In the last ten years, this subversive and playful visionary has established himself on the elite list of the world’s top artists – based on auction sales of nearly US$ 2.5 million. He has also gone international with his large-scale art extravaganzas, making headlines in the US, Europe and Japan. His meteoric rise is the largest ever seen in the art market.


Confidently navigating the worlds of cinema, celebrity, music and sport, he has collaborated with partners from Marvel Comics to footballing legend Pelé, as well as designing album covers for stars like Madonna and Michael Jackson. His extraordinary success has won him commissions and collectors from all walks of life, including Al Pacino, Samuel L Jackson and many more.


Always trying to give back to the community that made him, his fundraising activities include supporting organisations such as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s organisation, Let Girls Learn, and The Prince’s Trust for the benefit of vulnerable young people.

“Everybody is a celebrity for someone. Firstly, I’m a pop artist – a street pop artist. But when I work with celebrities, it’s about people. People who had a dream and let it happen. They showed that you can become a legend if you want to. These people had a dream but they didn’t give up. They let it happen. And that is what I want to show the other people: never, never, never give up. Follow your dreams. When you see those iconic people, you realise they are all just people, just like you and me. They become iconic because of what they do.”

Mr Brainwash

A unique mural for Queen Elizabeth

In August 2023 Queen Elizabeth welcomed Mr Brainwash himself on board to continue our exciting collaboration and champion artistic excellence at sea.


Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, joined guests and VIPs on board Queen Elizabeth in his hometown of Los Angeles for an exclusive ceremony in which he officially unveiled a new mural in the ship’s Garden Lounge.


The mural is an intricate patchwork of iconic Cunard marketing posters from the 1920s, with Mr. Brainwash spray-painting a unique finishing touch, in his signature graffiti style, during the ceremony to celebrate the best of Cunard and contemporary art.


The bespoke installation “Cunard x Mr. Brainwash” was commissioned in partnership with Clarendon Fine Art, who has represented the leading street artist in the UK since 2020 and whose galleries appear across the Cunard fleet.


Three innovative limited editions were also created, featuring each of the three Cunard Queens and exclusively made available to guests on board. Showcasing the iconic vessels, as well as Mr. Brainwash’s unique style, the editions offer guests an opportunity to acquire a unique moment in Cunard’s history. The largest collection of the artist’s original artwork and limited-edition pieces ever seen at sea were also brought on board for guests to view and purchase in Queen Elizabeth’s art gallery.

"I am ecstatic to collaborate with Cunard because, throughout history, they have proven to be timeless and consistent. This piece of mine holds massive significance. It is very special to me because it merges two worlds together and represents artistic expression on a grand scale. I believe creating accessible art is beautiful because it has the ability to enrich an individual’s journey and ignite their imagination no matter where they are in the world or what they are doing. If I can manage to even bring that expression to the high seas, there truly is no limit to where art can go. This unveiling is more than an event; it marks something that will inspire those who see it immediately and for generations to come. In the future, I will look back on this collaboration with beautiful memories attached to it."

Mr Brainwash

Still rising and hugely exciting

So what’s next? He is in the process of opening his own museum at the former Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. He says it is a dream come true. “I want to show different sides of myself – all I have kept inside for so many years. Imagine a pressure cooker about to explode. That’s me!” The art world waits.


Clarendon Fine Art looks forward to welcoming you to its gallery on board the Cunard Queens to discover Mr Brainwash and other exciting artists, and to learn more about the unique opportunity to acquire artwork from the world's brightest artistic talents.

Article first published in Cunarder (Summer 2022 edition).

On board with Cunard