Banksy needs no introduction. Secretive, irrelevant, political. His work is known around the world and sells for millions. His support for social causes whether it’s supporting worldwide support for eyesight restoration, migrants trying to cross the Med or even Bristol’s under threat Library service is well documented. In my view, the man is a true legend. So I wanted to find out more about exhibition and his thinking behind it.
BS the biggest question for me is ‘why Glasgow?’ You are, after all, a proud Bristolian
“For anyone who isn’t aware – the statue out the front (The statue of the Duke of Wellington CM), has had a cone in its head continually for the past 40 odd years. Despite the best efforts of the council and police, every time one is removed another takes its place.
This might sound absurd or pretentious (just wait until you see the rest of the exhibition) but it’s my favourite work of art in the UK and the reason I’ve brought the show here.”
BS graffiti art is a hard way to earn a living. What’s the buzz in making your art?
“To leave home in the middle of the night, stomach knotted, mouth dry, bowed head full of plans gone over fifty times. To weave between the drunk, the suspicious and the underpaid. Ever mindful of the thousand beady eyes on poles, with a ready story for the police.
To come up to a wall with pre-shaken cans and a clingy ladder dampened with a towel. To press the cap and know, as the first spit of paint hits the wall that it’s too late to turn back.”
BS you have worked in art galleries both inside and on the exterior walls. Tell us about this phase of your work.
“I went through a phase of vandalising old oil paintings and gluing them up in famous art galleries.
My preferred disguise for these missions was to dress as a quiet old man, and I usually took someone to act as a lookout. The night before I hit the Metropolitan Museum in New York my look out bailed on me, but later at a party I happened to meet the actor and legendary hell raiser Keith Allen. I asked if he would come and keep an eye out for me, possibly create a distraction.”
The following day he showed up, we got to our positions. I told him to wait for my signal and had taken about five steps when he roared at the top of his voice, ‘Guards! Guards! and pointing at a nearby tourist, ‘He just put his finger up my arse. Get the dirty bastard.”
BS what would you say is your ‘style’?
“Most artists have an obsession that defines their work. Monet had light, Hockney has colour, I’ve got police response time. Everything about how my art looks has been dictated by the working conditions. The technique, cutting out the image beforehand as I’m a slow drawer. The colour scheme: it’s easy to tell black and white apart in the dark. The subject matter: nobody risks arrest to paint abstract expressionism. I don’t think you can choose a style. Your circumstances force it on you.”
BS do you have any professional regrets?
“Good things come to those who wait. But only the things left behind by those who hustle. Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world for some reason I’ve never been invited to the Venice Biennale.
I set up as a street artist in St Mark’s Square, immortalizing the giant cruise ships that float into the city every day, legally pumping thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the lagoon.”
See you next year!”
Although this ‘interview’ never took place the words are all Banksy’s. ‘Cut and Run’ gives a unique insight into Banksy’s methodology and to his development as one of the UK’s most successful artists and political commentators. This exhibition is designed to appeal to both people interested in art and to those interested in contemporary political commentary. For this reason I believe it will go down in history as one of the most important exhibitions ever mounted this century, certainly in Glasgow.
Finally, I’ve never been interested in meeting or finding out Banksy’s identity. For me, it is more important that he has the space to continue working and making art. He’s come a long way. At the start the police response was to arrest him, now they rush to claim his art for their Federation funds.
You couldn’t make it up!
The Cut and Run exhibition is being hosted by Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow. Until 28th August Sunday – Thursday 9am – 11pm
Friday and Saturday 9am – 5am (next morning)