Fans of street art will be treated to an exhibition in Glasgow by the enigmatic Banksy who has been drawn to the city for his first solo exhibition in 14 years, writes JULENA DRUMI
From Kissing Coppers to Girl with a Balloon, the works of the artist known as Banksy have become as familiar as many of those in the established art world. After months of negotiations with the enigmatic street artist, Glasgow’s Gallery of modern Art (GoMA) is about to open Cut and Run, a retrospective of his stencils.
Banksy has chosen Glasgow because it is home to his “favourite work of art in the UK” – the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside the museum, permanently adorned with a traffic cone. It has become a a symbol of the city’s irreverent comedic history and, as such, a part of its marketing campaigns.
Such is the level of interest and anticipation in the exhibition it will remain open for night-time club-goers to grab a slice of contemporary culture.
The show features familiar works by the artist who has left his mark on bland and ordinary street corners around the country and recently in Ukraine and the West Bank.
Stencils for all of Banksy’s major works are on display, which were “hidden away for years, mindful they could be used as evidence in a charge of criminal damage”.
Adding to the allure is the mystery surrounding his identity, which was an added challenge for the museum.
Museum manager Gareth James said: “It has been a challenge, because obviously the level of secrecy and confidentiality in a show like this is massive.”
Works had to be flown in from across the world for the exhibition, which includes a unique insight into the mechanism that enabled the live destruction of his own work, Girl with Balloon, when it sold for £18.5 million at auction at Sotheby’s in London.
Exhibits span a period from 1988 to the present day, including Kissing Coppers, which first appeared in 2004 on a wall of a pub in Brighton.
It will also be the first time his stencils used to create his graffiti will be displayed, along with other artefacts belonging to the artist.
Speaking to The Herald, 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.”
Mr James said the event was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to work with the artist and that hosting this exhibition is a perfect fit for GoMA and the city.
“This is an exhibition that people will talk about for years to come and will reward repeat visits to appreciate its scope, insights and subversion,” he said.
The artist held an exhibition in Glasgow in 2001 when he was relatively unknown, but his emergence as an international figure means this show will be viewed on an altogether different plane.
The exhibition is seen as a huge coup for the city’s standing in the art world and an economic boost at a time when the central zone is struggling with low footfall.
Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, told The Herald: “This exhibition is going to generate huge excitement and demand, so we’re looking forward to welcoming even more visitors to Glasgow and Scotland this summer.”
Cut and Run opens on Sunday and runs until 28 August