Mr. Brainwash — often stylized as MBW — is the moniker of Paris-born, Los Angeles?based filmmaker and street artist Thierry Guetta. According to the Banksy-directed film Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), Guetta began as a proprietor of a clothing store and amateur videographer who filmed street artists through the 2000s and "evolved" into an artist in his own right in a matter of weeks after an off-hand suggestion from Banksy. Guetta was first introduced to street art by his cousin, the street artist Invader.
Guetta does not typically have much physical involvement in the construction of the artwork attributed to him; he passes ideas to his creative team, mostly graphic designers who carry out the artistic side instead of Guetta. Mimicking his associate Banksy, Guetta employs famous artistic and historic images, many of which are copyrighted, and amends the originals in sometimes slight, sometimes significant ways. A number of critics have observed that his works strongly emulate the styles and concepts of Banksy, and have speculated that Guetta is an elaborate prank staged by Banksy who may have created the works himself. Banksy insists on his official website, however, that Exit Through the Gift Shop is authentic and that Guetta is not part of a prank.
His work sold for five-figure sums at his self-financed debut exhibit Life is Beautiful due, it is thought, to a mixture of an over heated and hyped street art market and — according to Banksy and Shepard Fairey as seen in Exit — his misuse of endorsements from Banksy and Fairey. The exhibit was held in Los Angeles, California, on June 18, 2008, and was a popular and critical success. In 2009, Madonna paid Guetta to design the cover art for her Celebration album. Many street artists and graffiti artists have spoken out against Guetta and his practice of allegedly stealing ideas from street artists and mainstream artists alike. Guetta also has come to symbolize the capitalist turn that street art has taken in recent years.