Thierry Guetta, also known as Mr. Brainwash, made a bold arrival in New York City yesterday, covering an entire side of a building near the World Trade Center site with an original mural that reads "WE LOVE NEW YORK." Known best for his role in Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop, the French-born and LA-based Brainwash's artistic merits have sparked more than a little debate.

Yesterday he spoke with us about his new mural, his plans to keep working in NYC, and his fervid love for the city, its people, and just about everything else.

Can you tell us just a bit more about the new mural? I come to New York very often, and this time I decided that I needed New York. You know, I’m 48-years-old and I decided to be here. You know, to move. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for 33 years and I decided... I don’t know, something came into my head and I changed my flight 7 times. And I decided to say, “It’s time. I’m going to live in New York half of the time.”

I wanted to show my love to New York City. So I met somebody from Century 21 and I wanted to do something during 9/11. It was on my mind and I wanted to come to New York City and say a little hello.

So I tried really hard from the bottom of my heart to do something that wasn’t offensive and it was like the work. It would be very positive. And we tried to do it with a banner and the people said they cannot do it, it was too heavy, so we tried again with a sticker and I said “We’re not going to give up.” So I did it as a paste. Like what we do as a street artist, that is what we do on the street. We go with posters and we paint. So I did one of the biggest, I don’t know everything that happens in New York, but one of the biggest paste posters in New York City today. It’s 60 feet by 220 feet.

I wanted to just give my love to everyone in New York City, for the people here, for the people who had the strength to survive and to go through that. It’s not something that...[pause]...you know, New York City is a city, but I don’t think that it’s a city for me, anymore. It’s a country. Because it’s so strong.

Can you tell us just a little bit about where you were on 9/11? I was in Japan. People would tell me they didn’t speak English, and they would tell me “New York!” “New York!” and I would answer to them “No no no! I’m from LA! LA!” “New York! New York!” All like 10 times during the day. And when I came back to my bedroom, to my hotel, I turn on the TV, and that’s how you watch. You couldn’t believe it for a moment, you thought that was a movie, or a TV show, but it wasn’t.

I couldn’t leave, and I had to stay in Japan for 2 or 3 days more, and I bought all the newspapers from there, and you know, when you’re not in New York City, it means you were touched, because you know it’s not just about New York, it’s about seeing some people that get separated from the loved ones. But, I feel that in life, things happen and we don’t know why, but we do not shut down. That’s why the mural, its [message is] not to be shut down, it’s to stay. We are here, and we going to make the best out of it.

Sometimes in life you need to remember that life is beautiful, and that’s what my art does, to bring a smile, some colors, and to say to people, "Never, never give up. Follow your heart. Life is beautiful, love is the answer."

You mentioned you're moving to New York—do you plan to live here? I'm going to come at least 5 or 6 months per year and take over a building in SoHo, a full building of seven floors because I want to live here as an artist and be part of the New York community.

It's going to be my home base, it's not going to be a gallery, it's going to be something that I help artists from New York City and have a floor for that. I will do something that you can enjoy with friends, that mixes people together. Have a place where you can see a live band, very chill, very artistic. I live in Los Angeles and for me after 30 years it's like living in the country. It's like I'm almost a cowboy.

Los Angeles is the movies, but where do you see thousands of people on one street in Los Angeles? I see beauty everywhere in New York, even in the trash and the dirt. You guys, you're so close to New York that in the end you don't see anymore. Because I'm not from New York I see beauty in it everywhere.

What's your opinion of the state of street art? Do you plan to do any street art or outdoor art in NYC in the future? I'm telling you I'm coming to New York City, This is just a little hello. I'm not going to do only street art, I'm going to collaborate with other people, to work with schools. I'm going to give some love. It's not about me trying to go into the street to do something. It's trying to be collaborative about it and do some things that aren't just for me but for everyone.

Have you collaborated with or been in touch with Banksy at all lately? We are friends forever. We got to know each other so strongly. The film that we made together is a film that doesn't stop. It's one of the biggest documentaries in the world today. I'm living proof—I see almost at least one or two persons every day who tell me "I saw the documentary yesterday." Everyday.

Sometimes in life things happen for a reason, and that's what it is. We'll never be separated because it's more than a friendship. We are combined, and I believe that he's an incredible person. We were together for days and days, and after a while he got to know the kind of person I am. I'm not usual. I'm not something you see on every corner, and everyone is the same because we are all different. But I'm a little bit crazy, let's say. I'm not afraid of anything and there's nothing that will make me stop to do something. My message of life is to try to help people and give some love. I'll do it for the rest of my life, and it will never stop.

New York is a big school, and that's why I want to do big things here. I don't want to just do street art, I want to do things above that. I want a little bite of the apple, even if I have to do it while fighting along the way, that's what I want to do. I just love New York, that's all it is. New York and everything in it.

Mr. Brainwash's mural can be seen on the side of Century 21 (on Church between Dey Street and Cortlandt Street) across from the WTC site