Banksy is back, and has chosen Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) to host his first solo exhibition in 14 years. On 14 June 2023, Banksy announced the new show aptly titled CUT & RUN via Instagram. Banksy is, and has always been, staunchly elusive when it comes to his identity and ‘barely legal’ practice. However, CUT & RUN promises to showcase 25 years of Banksy’s ‘card labour’. Indeed, there is certainly more than meets the eye to be expected from the anonymous Street Artist’s first authorised retrospective.
Enemy to authority and institution alike, Banksy has always maintained a safe distance from galleries and museums. The bitingly targeted ‘Product Recall’ section of his website names and shames unauthorised exhibitions of his works. When the Bristolian Bad Boy organises his own exhibitions however, he puts on quite the show. From Turf War to Dismaland, Banksy's solo shows are imbued with frenzied drama: mirroring the artist's subversive practice.
CUT & RUN promises all the shock-factor of previous exhibitions, but with a unique focus on the artist's stencils. This show will offer an unprecedented glimpse into the anonymous artist's practice, displaying the most crucial component of his illegal graffiti process. For the first time, the Master of the Stencil will lay his most unassailable weapon bare for all to see.
In true Banksy style, the maverick Street Artist revealed very little about the show - though it has been two years in the making. On his website, Banksy promises “tight spaces, fragile items and disorienting light effects”. As ever, Banksy's exhibition style will likely unite graffiti and gallery in a mutinous attack on the gallery walls. Like his previous authorised exhibitions, CUT & RUN will be a show dictated by the artist's own terms.
As confirmed by BBC Entertainment Correspondent, Colin Paterson, the show features works across the artist's seismic career. For the first time, Banksy will showcase stencils he used to create his graffiti works and has painted on their surface to give them “bring them to life and give them a whole new lease of life”. Paterson's brief glimpse inside the exhibition reveals the original stencil for Banksy's homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat - sprayed near the Barbican Centre in London in 2017. Banksy's early Kissing Coppers work features, a work which propelled the anonymous artist to acclaim. At least two works from Banksy's 2019 Gross Domestic Product pop-up shop will also feature, including his bedazzled disco ball police riot helmet and the Union Jack stab vest work by rapper Stormzy at his 2019 Glastonbury performance.
Alongside these glaring anti-police brutality works, CUT & RUN will also feature a work never before seen outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank, depicting an Israeli soldier having a pillow fight with a Palestinian civilian. The stencil for one of Banksy's Ukrainian Murals of Solidarity is also on show. This is clearly an exhibition framed around Banksy's most politically-charged works, which the artist has always sprayed in an appeal for peace.
The stencil has always been Banksy's most prized tool when it comes to executing his public graffiti works. As demonstrated in his legendary 2010 ‘mockumentary’, Exit Through The Gift Shop, the stencil enables the artist to quickly spray his works in public spaces (while disguised, of course) and quickly flee the scene before the authorities approach. CUT & RUN features never-see-before stencils, which have been painted on to define them as works of art in their own right. This is an unprecedented foray for Banksy, since the artist has kept his stencils beneath the radar for fear of their use as “evidence in a charge of criminal damage”. Now Banksy seeks to commit the greatest crime of all, in his opinion: presenting the stencils in a gallery as works of art.
At the core of Banksy's oeuvre is drama. No better was that witnessed than with his performative shredding of a Girl With Balloon work at Sotheby's in 2018. Featured in the exhibition, Banksy shows us the intricate mechanics of the shredder frame he used to conduct one of the greatest stunts in art history.
Banksy has confirmed that he chose to host CUT & RUN at GoMA primarily because it is home to his favourite work of art in the UK. As the artist announces at the beginning of the exhibition: “For anyone who isn't aware - the statue out the front has had a cone on its head continuously for the past 40-odd years. Despite the best efforts of the council and police, every time one is removed another takes its place.” Of course, Banksy refers to the Glaswegian tradition of placing a traffic cone atop the city's Duke of Wellington statue. The ongoing vandalism of the statue has served as great inspiration to Banksy, and made this the most fitting venue for a retrospective of his own defiant and illegal works of art.
Within this setting of activism and resistance to authority, Banksy presents the “sweepings” from his studio floor. As expected, no photography is permitted inside the show. It would seem that Banksy doesn't want CUT & RUN to become the Instagrammable affair that his unauthorised shows have become in recent years. Banksy states that there are “restricted environments that require you to stay in the moment and keep moving”. The show is a call to visitors to immerse themselves in the subversive spirit of Street Art and Banksy's world, all the while mirroring the covert nature of his practice and his disdain for prying eyes.
Visitors will be asked to put their phone in a lockable pouch for the duration, relishing in the art alone and preserving Banksy's ceaseless desire for anonymity. However, gallery-goers will be able to request a souvenir Polaroid photograph to be taken by gallery staff inside the show. While Banksy offers his guests a material souvenir, CUT & RUN is anti-digital to the core.
CUT & RUN will show at GoMA until 28th August, and is open seven days a week. On Fridays and Saturdays the exhibition will be open all night until 5:00AM, although Banksy warns that any “very intoxicated” individuals might be denied entry. The show is a chance to immersive oneself in Banksy's world, and even venture through his web of stencils in the dead of night: when the covert artist is at his most cunning.
Unveiling an extraordinary collection, this exhibition presents unseen masterpieces by Banksy, showcasing his ingenious approach to artistry and authorship. Many of his original stencils, once used for graffiti, have been transformed with new life and vision. Notably, the stencil used for Banksquiat: Boy and Dog in Stop and Search, which sold at Phillips in May 2023 for a staggering $9,724,000 (fees included), solidifying its iconic status and the immeasurable value the stencil holds.
The exhibition also features the renowned Banksy™ Met Ball and its secondary market estimation of £150,000 to £200,000 in 2022. Reflecting contemporary culture, the Union Jack Stab Vest worn by Stormzy during his headline performance at Glastonbury Festival in 2019 would likely surpass £200,000 in secondary market value. Additionally, the stencil for the iconic early work Kissing Coppers, originating from a pub in Brighton, holds tremendous value potential, with the highest-selling canvas reaching $575,000 at Fine Art Auctions in Miami, Florida in November 2022.
And let's not forget the spine-tingling excitement surrounding the infamous shred mechanism that will be showcased and mesmerised the world during Banksy's unforgettable stunt. The iconic artwork Girl With Balloon transformed into ”Love is in the Bin’’ at Sotheby's in October 2021 dramatically shredding as the gavel fell, fetching a staggering £18,852,000 (including fees). It will be fascinating to unravel the artistic and material value embodied by this mechanism. Prepare to be captivated by these extraordinary artistic tools and their unrivalled significance in the art world.
Banksy's exhibitions have always held surprises, and it's safe to assume that CUT & RUN will be no exception. Throughout his career, Banksy has never held an exhibition without offering the opportunity to purchase his works. As evidenced by previous exhibitions, a number of artworks have made their way to the secondary market, their provenance tracing back to these remarkable shows. The anticipation for what Banksy has in store for us continues to build, promising an unforgettable experience.
On Banksy's website, the artist frequently calls out the unauthorised shows which overcharge spectators to see his works. CUT & RUN however is a charged exhibition, something which might alarm naysayers. However, as Charlotte Stewart observes, Banksy's actions are never incidental and they are certainly never aimed at turning over profit. Tickets for the show are priced at £15 for adults, £5 for children, and £10 for “Students/OAP/Low waged/tight fisted” individuals.
The show is certain to sell out quickly, which begs the question: where will the profits from CUT & RUN go? The show is also rumoured to be travelling further than Glasgow, though we await the artist's confirmation of its next location. There is certainly more than meets the eye in stall for this major retrospective. After all, Banksy always has a trick up his sleeve.
During the 10-week stint of CUT & RUN, the GoMA welcomed around 180,000 visitors - including A-list art lovers Jarvis Cocker and Johnny Depp. Ticket-holders reportedly donated around £10,000 to the GoMA after visiting the exhibition, revealing once again the ‘Banksy effect’: the transformative repercussions on any location Banksy sprays in. While the final figures for the exhibition profits are yet to be announced, it is expected that CUT & RUN would have brought more than £10million to the city of Glasgow. We are also yet to discover what Banksy will do with the profits from this exhibition, but the street artist rarely does anything with a philanthropic end in mind.
Alongside the donations exhibition-goers made to the GoMA during this 10-week showcase, Banksy also made a personal gift to the gallery workers that facilitated this grand retrospective. In a true homage to the GoMA's place in cultural and art history, GoMA staff were gifted with a pair of pretend earrings in the shape of a traffic cone. A typically tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the defaced Duke of Wellington sculpture, a subversive landmark of Glasgow, the gift is proof in point of Banksy's gracious approach to art and his championing of socio-political protest.
CUT & RUN closed to the public on Monday 28th August, but the street art maverick has confirmed that this is not the end of his grand retrospective. Banksy's website asks fans to suggest potential locations for the show - which is set to be the first authorised travelling Banksy exhibition.
Banksy has left the future of CUT & RUN in the hands of his admirers, involving them by positing the question: “We want to take this show on the road but have no idea where to go next. Do you?”. The exhibition organisers invite suggestions to be mailed at [email protected], and advise that “a specific location or venue would be ideal, please don’t just write ‘Come to Iran!’”.
As is always the case with Banksy, there is still an air of ambiguity surrounding his next move. However, the artist's confirmation that CUT & RUN will be his first authorised travelling exhibition if proof in point of his art world supremacy: something which will only grow in strength as this intimate retrospective travels the globe.