Why is someone emailing me about Alec Monopoly, Mr. Brainwash, and Kim Kardashian?

An object by Kim Kardashian, available now on Paddle 8.
An object by Kim Kardashian, available now on Paddle 8.

The following is an open letter to a trio of people (I’ve removed their names) who emailed me about promoting this auction on Paddle 8, and asked for my advice on spreading the word. Despite their C- rating from Charity Intelligence Canada, I am optimistic that the Baycrest Foundation does good work around Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research. You can contribute, without engaging in their auction, here. – RJ Rushmore

Hi X, Y, Z,

So here’s the thing… if you want to promote things made by Mr. Brainwash and Alec Monopoly, I suggest you do it far away from art blogs. Of course, I can’t say what they do is not art, because clearly it technically is an art-like thing, and when something it considered “not art,” it is all too often later regarded as groundbreaking. However, what Alec and Brainwash do is five steps backward. It is, at best, pop art solely for the sake displaying money and celebrity. If Donald Trump collected art (other than, of course, portraits of himself) Brainwash and Alec are the artists that he would collect. They are unabashed displays of wealth, for no other purpose than the display of wealth. These are the guys who show up to your high school reunion wearing a Rolex on both wrists, just because they want to tell everyone that they are wearing a Rolex on each wrist.

Yes, in this particular case, these two artists are choosing to raise money for charity, but have you ever considered why that might be? BP sponsors the TATE in London. Why? Not because they are good people, but because they are looking for a way to look like good people. (Thankfully, Liberate Tate has brought a stop to that.)

I have had Alec tell me to my face that his art is a joke, a money-making/get-laid scheme and nothing more. He knows it.

I have literally threatened to quit two jobs when the question of working with Brainwash was raised, and I was prepared to do it. Actually, one of them I did quit for a few days until they decided not to work with him.

But wait! Perhaps you think: Well, Brainwash is a fun man bringing art to the people. I can’t really convince you otherwise until a recording comes out saying “fuck ‘the people,'” but I don’t think it will because I think that Brainwash is just an idiot and who believes his own hype and doesn’t see how his work is at best misguided and at worst damaging. The one and only time I’ve ever written positively about Mr. Brainwash was when he made a pro-Obama poster, because he accidentally ended up on the right side of history and with a budget to hire a halfway-decent graphic designer to put him there. But with Alec, he’s never hidden it. You may look at Alec and think: He’s “subverting the idea of the Monopoly Man, laughing at Wall Street.” Alec thinks he’s being subversive too, but he doesn’t understand the meaning of the fucking word. Like, he literally believes it means the opposite of what it means. He’s an ostentatiously oblivious piece of shit. Coincidentally, this piece I wrote about Alec a few years back mentions healthcare and elaborates on my perspective.

I could kind of give a fuck about Kim Kardashian and Michael Buble. I mean, if people want to own a thing that a pop star touched and that thing raises money for charity, great. But no art site could possibly care, except for the clicks it would generate.

All the best with the Baycrest Foundation. I can’t quite buy a brain, but I hope that my modest personal contribution is helpful.

– RJ

Parasites and magnets: a story about street art and photography


I am bored. In fact, I am not that bored, I am more disillusioned. But why?

Firstly I am slightly fed up of seeing a lack of creativity in much of the street art I am currently viewing in London, hence these photos of interesting pieces by Monkey and the ATG Crew in Hvar, Croatia I snapped whilst on holiday a couple of months ago. It may just be that I am looking in the wrong places, and don’t get me wrong, there are a huge amount of artists living and working in London that I admire, but it seems I keep seeing the same dull work from many others.


But that is not quite why I am writing. It is a second point that has caused me to become even more disillusioned. Money makes the world go around and money always seeps into everything eventually, street art included. This is not necessarily a bad thing, artists need money to keep doing what they are doing in addition to feeding and clothing themselves, but at the same time money brings parasites.

These parasites, as I like to call them, come in various forms and varieties. You have flippers, forgers, and reclaimers, who just steal street art off the street to sell. Then there are others, such as agents, who I will never understand really. An agent, really?


But there seems to be a final parasite that is increasing in numbers, and that’s the photographer. Actually photographer is a bad term to use, but they call themselves that so, so be it. A photographer to me is someone that is creative, an artist with a camera. Someone who sees a shot, frames it, and shoots it. Taking light, composition, angle and various other important aspects into account. A good photographer (at this point note Mark Rigney, Sandra Butterfly, NoLionsinEngland, RomanyWG, HowAboutNo, Martha Cooper, Ian Cox et al), makes an image come to life in a photo. They add something to a picture.

I see photographers as important for a couple of reasons, firstly as I have previously alluded to, they are artists in their own right and I am all for creative people who have something interesting to exhibit. But secondly, and more importantly to an extent, is their ability to document. Martha Cooper is the prime example and others have followed suit. My pictures in this post are a documentation of street art in Croatia and this blog is a documentation of street art from around the world. In essence it becomes a window to history and that’s why I have a penchant for photography.


Yet over the last two weeks in particular, and over the last few weeks, months and years in general, I have become disillusioned. In no small part because of the increasing numbers of people printing Banksy images onto canvas and selling them at every market in London, but more recently by photographers tapping into the same practice.

Over the last two weekends I have attended two outdoor art events. One in Brixton, and one near Old Street. Both these events have included some fantastic, talented artists, and in particular, Brixton had a few great photographers who’s work I really admired. But both have also had those types of photographers who steal others’ creativity.


Poor photos are one thing, but couple that with a market stall, price labels, and in one case fridge magnets and Oyster card holders and you have a recipe for disaster. Gone is the creativity and the innovation of a good photographer or even if the documentation that the mediocre photographer can provide. All you are left with is poor photos, bad cropping and product.

There has been a recent breakthrough on this subject with regard to Wooster Collective working their magic to ensure than Art.com offers commission to artists and show artists the photos they are hoping to use before they start selling them. This really is a massive step in ensuring that companies who deal in wall art act in a moral manner, but as RJ mentioned in his post on the subject, this is far from a complete problem solver.

In one of the cases I came across, I asked if the photographer had got permission from the artists. He said yes of course, the majority had agreed and that they are extremely grateful for their work getting promoted.

I would have loved to have been there when the guy asked Banksy, Eine, Phlegm, Mr. Brainwash, Os Gemeos and others if he could use their images to make money for himself. I hardly believe they are happy that others are making financial gains without paying any dues, in this case commission.

At a time when there are so many good artists releasing high quality affordable screen prints and even originals, it annoys me that some members of the general public are paying out sums of money for awful images. The stall at the street party near Old Street always had a large crowd around it with people paying good money for pictures they could have taken themselves and printed at home.

The moral of this story is that if you are reading this thinking about lining the pockets of one of these so called photographers, then I urge you to invest that money in your own camera, get outside and take some photos yourself. And if you need a bit of training then get yourself along to one of NoLions photography workshops if he organises a few more soon, fingers crossed he does, as they were very well received. Be creative, don’t let others steal what in essence is meant to be free art for all to enjoy.

This problem is not going to disappear completely, but you can all do your bit by not handing your money over to these parasitic photographers, and don’t let your mates do it either. In fact, I believe this is where street art tours come into their own as they get the general public into places where they can take their own documentary images. It is summer, so get yourself outside, walk around, see what turns your head, and just be creative.


Photos all by Shower. Not purchased in any way. Taken himself whilst on holiday in Hvar, Croatia. And they will not be printed onto magnets any time soon!

Moustache Man goes indoors at Krause Gallery


In 2011 and 2012, Patrick Waldo aka Moustache Man tagged thousands of subway advertisements. His tag was simple and fun. He wrote the word “Moustache” on the ads where someone else might scribble a crude moustache. The intervention was simple but extremely popular and fun. Unfortunately, NYPD disagreed. They arrested Waldo and charged him with criminal mischief. Not surprising, but certainly disappointing and a waste of their time.

This week, Waldo is taking the Moustache Man identity indoors for his first solo show. The show will be held at Krause Gallery in NYC, opening on the 21st (7-9pm) and running through February 24th.

Although Andrew Hosner of Thinkspace Gallery has implicitly suggested that I am shaking my head over this show because of Nico Glaude’s piece last week, I’m actually curious about this show. Outdoors, as a little prank, I think Moustache Man is pretty funny. And I love that he turned his experiences tagging and then being arrested for the most ridiculous of offenses into a one-man-show for the UCB Theater. But indoors, what is he supposed to do? What is Moustache Man without vandalism and a lack of consent, and how do you bring that indoors? This is bound to fail, right?

Well, now I’m not so sure. Part of Waldo’s show includes “Forced Collaborations” between himself and various other artists. In the case of Mr. Brainwash, Waldo has taken an actual Mr. Brainwash print and added his tag to it. Additionally, since Mr. Brainwash puts his thumbprint in ink on his prints, Waldo decided to dip his testicles in ink and the print has a print of Waldo’s left testicle next to Mr. Brainwash’s thumbprint. Mint and Serf tried something similar a few years ago, but I believe that was with the permission of the involved artists. I’m not sure if this is going to work, but it might, and I’m very curious to see how it goes.

I won’t be able to see the show in person though, so if you do go and see it, please leave a comment and let me know how it goes.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Waldo

Weekend link-o-rama

Rothko from beyond the grave by Freddy Sam

Not much to say this week except of course that I’m pumped for The Art of Comedy. Not too much news either, but some important stories…

Photo by Faith47 and via Wooster Collective

Mr. Brainwash is being sued again

Outside of the Mr. Brainwash/Google Music event

Star of Exit Through the Gift Shop and supposed-artist Mr. Brainwash is being sued again for his use of appropriated imagery. This time it’s the estate of the photographer James Marshall (not this James Marshall) suing Mr. Brainwash over his appropriation of photographs that Marshall took of Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane and others. The works in question were part of Google Music’s launch event, which took place at Mr. Brainwash’s studio last fall, so Google is also named in the suit.

Despite the poor quality of Mr. Brainwash’s work, I have to once again defend his right to appropriate Marshall imagery. Better to allow bad art based on appropriation that not allow appropriation at all. Here are two previous posts that I’ve written on this topic relating to the last time Mr. Brainwash was sued for similar reasons.

Photo by Lord Jim

Weekend link-o-rama

Portrait of Steve Jobs in France

This weekend I’ll be in Boston. If you have any ideas for what I should get up to, leave a comment. I’ll definitely be checking out Swoon’s installation at the ICA Boston. Here’s what’s been going on in street art while I’ve been locked in my room studying all week:

Photo by Abode of Chaos

Ron English gives a glimpse behind the scenes of Exit

Ron English

An interview with Ron English has revealed a number of new twists in the stories of Banksy/Shepard Fairey/Mr. Brainwash/Exit Through the Gift Shop, as well as confirmed some major long-time rumors. Read Ron’s words in full over here, but here’s a summary:

  • Thierry Guetta/Mr. Brainwash is a real guy and he’s really like how Exit portrays him. He’s not some actor hired by Banksy or whatever else people have claimed.
  • Even before becoming Mr. Brainwash, Thierry was pretty wealthy and he owned a bunch of property in LA. That was his big “in” to connect with street artists: He could offer them the best walls to paint legally.
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop came out of Banksy’s intervention in a lawsuit between Shepard and Thierry over Thierry essentially holding hostage all these tapes that Shepard and Banksy wanted access to.
  • Banksy is a smart dude, and also cynical.

But make sure to check out the full story on herald-review.com.

Photo by Brandon Shigeta

Via Inside The Rock Poster Frame

Legal appropriation is a popularity contest

Photo by catheadsix

Earlier this year, Mr. Brianwash lost a court case where he was sued by the photographer Glen E. Friedman over the use of one of Friedman’s photographs as the basis for some artwork by Mr. Brainwash. MBW based a number of pieces (including the one shown above) on Friedman’s iconic photo of Run DMC, but did not license the image from Friedman. The prevailing opinion online seemed to be that Friedman was right to sue and that MBW should have paid the license the photo. I defended MBW. Recently, another fair use case has come up where the circumstances are very similar to this case, but for some reason the internet community has come out in favor of the appropriator and against the photographer. That is the case of Andy Baio versus Jay Maisel over the use of a Maisel photograph, modified by Baio, being used as an album cover. It’s an interesting story and you can read the whole thing over here. Supporters in this case have overwhelmingly sided with Baio, to the point where people put up wheatpastes criticizing Maisel on the outside of Maisel’s home. What’s the difference between Friedman versus MBW and Maisel versus Baio?

It seems to come down to one simple thing: likeability. In the MBW/Friedman case, Friedman is the likeable character. His photographs are iconic and he’s put in years of hard work. Mr. Brainwash is just bleh, and Exit Through The Gift Shop doesn’t paint the prettiest picture of him. With Baio/Maisel, Baio modified Maisel’s photograph as one piece of a much larger and likeable project, a musical project where the visual component was not a major consideration, but a nice afterthought, and that musical project was a really cool project. Baio looks like he’s been blindsided by Maisel’s legal threats. So now Baio is the likeable character in the story. But the amount of change that each artist did was probably about the same. In fact, Baio probably made less changes to Maisel’s photograph than MBW did to Friedman’s. MBW was trying to be somewhat transformative, and Baio was trying to imitate Maisel.

The other component here is money. Maisel is a millionaire and forced Baio to pay over $30,000 to settle a case about a project that Baio wasn’t going to make money off of anyway. And while I’m not sure about Friedman’s financial situation, Mr. Brainwash is known to sell millions of dollars of artwork in one night. And nobody wants to side with the rich guy who is just getting richer off of the poorer guy’s hard work. That’s no fun. So even this comes down to likeability. Everyone wants to root for the underdog.

It seems that, at least in the court of public opinion, legal appropriation is little more than a popularity contest. Appropriation is such a grey area that whoever is more likeable is deemed to be in the right. It’s certainly something that I’ve fallen for in the past as well, but in the future I’m going to be a lot more careful, and I hope the rest of the blogosphere will be as well. Street art fans should be particularly aware of these issues, as so much street art and pop art relies on some degree of appropriation.

For the record, I think that both Mr. Brainwash and Baio were in the right.

Weekend link-o-rama


If you’ll notice that there were a good number of posts on Vandalog this week, you’ll notice the opposite thing next week. With family in town visiting and moving in with some friends and starting the couch-hopping segment of my summer in just a few days, things are rather busy. And so is the art world. Here’s what I have been reading this week:

Photo by Get.off.My.Spaceship!

Weekend link-o-rama

"Circus" ad disruption in Philadelphia by Sorry

Wow, last week went by quickly. And Steph moved in with me today, temporarily. Should be a crazy few weeks. Here’s what I’ve been meaning to write about:

Photo by Carolinecaldwell