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Banksy Cut and Run Exhibition: Review

Emma Burnett

Tuesday, 7 November 2023

This Summer (2023), Banksy's first official exhibition in 14 years opened in Glasgow's GoMA. Just about as elusive as Banksy himself, the Cut and Run exhibition was truly enigmatic, forbidding any public photography. Fortunate enough to get her hands on tickets, Emma Burnett recounts her experience of possibly the most intimate exploration of the legendary Banksy ever seen before.

Walking up to the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow, you are first greeted by a longstanding Glaswegian inside joke. This is the statue of the Duke of Wellington, who has worn a traffic cone on his head for the best part of the last 40 years.

Once you’ve nodded with bemusement, possibly snapped a couple of pictures of it, you enter the gallery, only to discover that it is this landmark that granted Glasgow the honour of hosting the exhibition. Banksy recounts that he has always found the tireless existence of the traffic cone hilarious - every time it is taken down, another one takes its place with immediate effect. One might say that the statue personifies the anti-establishment nature of Banksy’s artwork.

The exhibition captured this perfectly. As Banksy stated on a wall of the exhibition: “Most artists have an obsession that defines their work, Monet had light, Hockney has colour, I’ve got police response time”. This obsession was certainly evident, as the GoMA was littered with references to law enforcement. Some were more explicit, such as a disturbingly life-like model of a police officer see-sawing on a children’s rocking horse, and some more subtle, such as first-edition of the Union Jack bulletproof vest Stormzy wore to headline Glastonbury in 2019.

However boundary-pushing, or arguably offensive, it may be, the brilliance of Banksy’s artwork cannot be denied. Pieces such as ‘The Great British Spraycation’ and ‘Balloon Girl’ are simply beautiful in their raw depiction of humanity.

The Cut and Run exhibition captures perfectly the contradiction of Banksy. Primarily, that despite the fact that hi  s art is as public as it possibly can be, his identity has always been the artist’s greatest secret – his disguise (a beige trench coat and Groucho glasses) was also featured in the exhibition. Banksy’s artworks are often built upon juxtaposition; this is exemplified in his ‘Flower Bomber’ and ‘Punk’s Mum’ pieces, both of which have been recreated in the exhibition.

The exquisite storytelling of the exhibition does not occur solely through art, but also through those easily ignored, small, white boxes of writing which line the walls of art galleries. Despite their usual forgettability, they housed satirical, yet poignant anecdotes from Banksy himself. Narrating the exhibition, these amusing reminiscences became a focal point of the exhibition, producing ruptures of laughter from the audience. ‘This guy should be a comedian!’, I overheard one audience member exclaim.

The most valuable knowledge Banksy relays, however, is the unquantifiable power of art. Art can convey so much without words. It can be political, it can be influential, it can be revolutionary. 

Banksy’s Cut and Run exhibition may be the most revealing examination of Banksy and his work yet. He uses his artwork to lead us on a journey through the depths of his mind – the mind of one of the most innovative artists of our time.


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