It takes a lot to impress the pigeons who patrol the centre of Glasgow. War, peace, industrial strife, indyref rallies, the Christmas lights - those beady eyes have seen it all.

But there was something different about them this morning as they picked their way along the pavement outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square. Was it the hangover from another balmy night without sleep, or were Glasgow’s finest strutting their stuff with a little more attitude than usual?

Anyone would think the city had struck oil during the night, and in arts terms it has. Any way you slice it, being chosen as the launch pad for Banksy’s first solo exhibition in 14 years is A Big Deal. Councils all over the world can only dream of waking up one day to find a Banksy on a wall. Here we’ve got stacks of his works, for a little while anyway, all carefully curated by the man himself.

Yes, apparently the Scarlet Pimpernel of modern art, or “the boss” as he was referred to by his team, was in the other day, making last-minute adjustments. Not that anyone outside of an extremely tight circle knew he was in town, or what he looked like. Strictly preserved anonymity is all part of the Banksy brand. I overheard one of the GoMA team asking a Banksy staffer what “he” looked like. Lips stayed zipped. To do otherwise would be like ratting on Tony Soprano. You could, but it wouldn’t be a smart move.

READ MORE: 25 years of landmark works 

Cut & Run 25 years of card labour offers its own clues to the Banksy psyche. The first piece as you walk into the transformed inner of GoMA is the artist’s desk, complete with scalpels, spray paints, daubs of every colour, and a mug with the legend: “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce.” Surrounding the desk are the stencils, never before exhibited, used to produce some of his landmark works.

Key pieces and moments from the last 25 years are described by Banksy in accompanying panels. The guy gives good quote, particularly when it comes to describing his near brushes with the law. “Most artists have an obsession that defines their work,” says one. “Monet had light, Hockney has colour. I’ve got police response time.”

The space is tight until you reach the main gallery which houses The Meat Truck (stuffed with soft toys representing animals going off to slaughter) and pieces from Dismaland, the Banksy theme park. Entry is at 15 minute intervals to reduce crowding, and they are going to need those gaps if the crowds turn up as expected.

On the way out, exit through the gift shop of course, you can buy your Banksy merch (two posters for £15, book and tote bag £25). Also on the way out is the artist’s boyhood bedroom complete with posters of The Specials and an array of catapults. Finally, visitors are invited to write their names on the wall to show they were here.

READ MORE: Why Banksy chose Glasgow

This is an exhibition that works on many levels. It is as much a show of art as a canter through recent political history and a glimpse into the mind of an artistic provocateur. More than any other artists of his generation, Banksy has proved himself the quintessential showman. What a show he has put on for Glasgow, for Scotland, for the world.



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