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"Cut & Run: 25 Years Card Labour": Banksy's First Exhibition in 14 Years

(Image from The Big Issue).


The juggernaut of street art, Banksy, has returned. After numerous exhibitions curated by museums without Banksy’s artistic directive, the artist has opened his first official solo exhibition in 14 years at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). Why GoMA, you may be wondering? Simple, Banksy’s favourite work of art in the U.K. is the museum’s statue of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, where for the past 40-odd years, a cone has rested on its head despite the council and police’s efforts to remove it (since a new one has always replaced it). In the artist’s words, “This might sound absurd and pretentious (just wait until you see the rest of the exhibition), but it’s my favourite work of art in the U.K. and the reason I’ve brought the show here” (The National, 2023). 


Banksy’s renown and impact on the modern art scene are staggering, and yet little is known about the artist himself. For those who may be unaware, Banksy is the pseudonym for an England-based street artist, political activist, and film director whose real identity is unknown. Impressive, if you consider the fact that he has been active since the 1990s. Coming from the Bristol underground scene, his satirical street art involves a distinct stenciling technique that combines dark humour with graffiti. Displaying his work on publicly visible surfaces, his fame, and his refusal to sell reproductions of his work, have led to the reselling of his public installations, including removing the walls they were painted on. His latest works have included several murals in Ukraine, which he posted on social media in November 2022. This included a mural on the side of a damaged building in the town of Borodianka, confirming that he had visited Ukraine following the Russian invasion (which began on February 24, 2022). He also created six murals in Kyiv, Irpin, Hostomel, and Horenka, with the image in Borodianka of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a judo throw being turned into a Ukrainian stamp. Considering the impact of his artwork in both the art world and on everyday bystanders who are lucky to witness his work first-hand on the streets of London, New York, and more, the exhibition has been welcomed with fervent excitement.


Titled Cut & Run: 25 Years Card Labour, the show includes both new and familiar art pieces and even includes the artist’s actual toilet. Running from the 18th of June until the 28th of August, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., the exhibition showcases many stencils that Banksy has used to create some of his greatest pieces, including Girl With Balloon and Kissing Coppers. Tickets are priced at £15 for ages 17+, £10 for students, OAPs, the disabled, and the low waged, and £5 for ages 5-16, where under 14s must be accompanied by an adult. Moreover, the exhibition features an explanation, through a model, of how the artist managed to shred Girl With Balloon during a 2018 auction at Sotheby’s in London, which self-destructed after being sold for £1.1 million. The canvas had been passed through a secret shredder hidden inside a large frame, leaving the bottom half ruined with only a solitary red balloon left on the white framed background. It was later renamed Love Is In The Bin and sold at auction for £18.58 million in 2021.


Discussing the exclusive stencils exhibited, Banksy said: “I’ve kept these stencils hidden away for years, mindful they could be used as evidence in a charge of criminal damage. But that moment seems to have passed, so now I’m exhibiting them in a gallery as works of art. I’m not sure which is the greater crime” (Sky News, 2023). Considering that graffiti is currently illegal and seen as vandalism, it is particularly powerful that the street art of an unknown man has received such critical acclaim and widespread popularity, being reproduced in cups and posters within city gift shops and Etsy products. The exhibition is set to be a roaring success, with the possibility that it may tour if popular enough. As journalist Margie Goldsmith writes, “About 500 years ago, Romans expressed their dissatisfaction with the Vatican by leaving written messages or poetic satire on statues. By the morning, the messages were removed or painted over. Banksy continues that tradition with his satirical street art” (Forbes, 2021).



Edited by: Shahnawaz Chodhry

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