The elusive artist Banksy has always maintained last year's Exit Through the Gift Shop
is 100% real, but the documentary that follows the exploits of several well-known street artists – particularly Mr. Brainwash aka Thierry Guetta who practically became an overnight sensation – continues to be a subject of great debate. Was the film some kind of collaborative hoax? Is Banksy really Thierry Guetta? Further intriguing plot twists to the Gift Shop
storyline come from an interview with artist Ron English on Herald-Review.com, in which the culture jammer – who appears briefly in the movie – reveals some interesting information.
writer Jim Vorel points out, take English's story with a grain of salt – but the artist may be the link to what feels like a few missing pieces in the overall Banksy/Guetta/Exit
mythology. Like many others attached to the documentary, English insists that Guetta and Banksy are not the same person and that Guetta's quirks on cam are not invented. "He's quirky-crazy but he's not stupid, he's kind of like Columbo or something," English says. The artist also reveals that Guetta is "like a billionaire, a very wealthy guy," and manages several properties, which he allows various street artists to tag freely. He goes on to say that Guetta is a well-known L.A. figure who is "very tenacious and makes an impression. He's a great character. Of course now, he's really into being famous and almost always has two bottles of champagne in his hands."
Most interesting is English's background story on the making of Gift Shop. He relates that Guetta filmed artist Shepard Fairey for five years, but at the end of their time together Guetta refused to stick to their agreement to go 50/50 on the film and share the valuable footage with Fairey. "He's actually quite smart and can be a little devious -- he figured 'I just took away five years of your fame,' because in his heart, Thierry always wanted to be the artist," English says. "He figured he was messing up his competition, in a way, and holding onto valuable footage." The famed Obey artist filed a lawsuit against Guetta, but Banksy stepped in. "That's when he told Thierry that he would make a movie about him instead, in exchange for the footage, which Thierry turned over to Banksy. That's when they realized that the footage wasn't nearly what they thought it might be, but it turns out they did get a different sort of treasure trove, because you've got a portrait of this weird guy, Thierry."
And what does English think about the mysterious Banksy? "[He] is incredibly intelligent and clever. He's very smart and very cynical. Of all of these guys, Banksy is probably the smartest." Read the full interview
over here. Are you buying what English is selling?