It’s the only show in town. The first solo exhibition in 14 years by Bansky, the most famous and celebrated graffiti artist in the world, at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).

It’s a show which reveals for the first time the stencils and behind-the-scenes process used by Banksy to create many of their most iconic and memorable works over the past 25 years. 


Two-and-a-half years in the making, the news that Banksy had chosen to Glasgow, and GoMA, as the location to stage the new show, CUT & RUN, was only known to a select few people.

Among them were GoMA museum curator Martin McSheaffrey-Craig and museum manager Gareth James, both of whom were tasked with keeping the news a secret, even from their colleagues at GoMA. 

McSheaffrey-Craig recalls the moment he first took a call from Banksy’s team “during one of the Covid lockdowns” back in 2020.

READ MORE: Teachers 'emotional' after pupils among first to see Banksy exhibition

He told The Herald: “Someone from the Banksy team got my contact as the curator at GoMA and was just essentially asking in general about potential venues. I think they were kind of sounding me out, or GoMa out, to find out if we were interested. Of course we were. It was phenomenal. 

“At that point in time, I think it was during one of the lockdowns when I was working from home. What an amazing bit of news! But I just had to keep it to myself. Then I brought Gareth into the equation as the manager of GoMA to make sure that my excitement would also filter through and we would get permissions. And then it kind of stayed between us for the next couple of years really. That was in 2020 sometime.”


One of the tactics the pair used to keep it a secret from their colleagues, McSheaffrey-Craig reveals, was to make what they were planning with Banksy’s team sound like “the most boring project” possible to throw them off the scent. 

He said: “Obviously, we’ve had international artists [at GoMA]. Our team are phenomenal, but because it had to be kept in-house it was Banksy that curated it and did it alI. Some people were like, ‘Did you curate it?’ But it was all Banksy’s team.

“I would say looking back, in a weird way, what I learned quite quickly is that I’m usually quite upbeat and excitable but I realised that if we had to keep it a secret, I had to try and make it sound as boring as possible. 


The Herald:

“When we were going for meetings or discussing it, it was always kind of I need to make it sound like the most boring project, so everyone was like, ‘I don’t even want to know what you are talking about because that sounds boring as hell’.

“We didn’t want to lie to our colleagues, so it was more about deferring it. I think that’s what was hard for me and Gareth because we are quite a close-knit team. It’s a much smaller team than what you would think for the amount of work that Glasgow Museums does, so it was kind of hard to kind of cut them out. 

“We didn’t want them to feel it was hierarchical – it wasn’t – it was just purely the fact that if this got out, it might not have happened. In fact, it wouldn’t have happened if it got out. So it was just under ‘need’ rather than not wanting people involved.”

The pair also invented a cover story to further help maintain the secret, James admits – a story that had to change when the thing they invented ended up becoming a reality. 

He said: “I think to a certain degree we almost ended up developing this shorthand to be able to talk about it in the office or having to have meetings online, or having to step out the office to take a phone call. A lot of it was still that basic stuff of emails and trying to sort out lots of practical stuff that we would do for lots of exhibitions. 

READ MORE: Review: Banksy, Glasgow, Cut & Run, 25 years card labour

“Our cover story, because we did have to kind of talk about it a bit more, was that we were going to get some refurbishment on the windows at GoMA. And then, rather brilliantly, another department managed to source the funding to get the windows replaced. So our cover story had to change because we were saying, ‘Oh yes we have to keep that clear for the windows getting repaired’, and lo and behold, we actually were getting the windows repaired.”


Their various tactics were a success of course. And so invested was James in keeping the whole thing a secret, he admits he has trouble saying Banksy’s name out loud, even if the ability to do so freely is a “relief”.

He added: “I think I’m still not quite that comfortable and am still talking to Martin about ‘the artist’. And then I’m like, ‘Oh, I can say Banksy now. We can say it in the office and not have to whisper it’.” 

Now that the veil of secrecy has been removed and the exhibition has received its first visitors through the doors at GoMA, James is full of praise for both Banksy and the artist’s team.

He said: “I think the show is beyond what I could even have imagined or wished for. The content. The behind-the-scenes stuff. How funny the captions are. 

The Herald: Martin McSheaffrey-Craig, left, Museum Curator at GoMA and Gareth James, Museum Manager at GoMAMartin McSheaffrey-Craig, left, Museum Curator at GoMA and Gareth James, Museum Manager at GoMA (Image: Colin Mearns)

“And I’ve got to be honest. Banksy’s team, the install team, as you should expect, are world class. Absolutely. What they’ve been able to do in Gallery 1, in that space, I kind of find mind-blowing. I think people who know the space will be surprised by it. And people who don’t know the space will be surprised by it as well in terms of the way it’s been designed and built.”

“I feel the exact same. It’s more than what I could have imagined for,” McSheaffrey-Craig added. 

“Weirdly, I kept on oscillating while we were there between getting used to it and being in our wee bubble and going, ‘Alright, no this is fine’, and then suddenly you’d maybe speak to the Banksy team and they’d start talking about things like people coming from around the world and then you’d suddenly go, ‘Wait a minute this is going to be massive’. But then, because it was just me and Gareth, you kind of go back to, ‘Are we kidding ourselves on? Maybe it’s not that big?’

“But as soon as we saw the exhibition we were blown away and said, ‘No this is going to be massive’. 

READ MORE: Why Banksy chose Glasgow: The traffic cone that signifies the city’s humour

“Even the most die-hard Banksy fan is going to see something they’ve never seen before in there. I think that’s it, it’s such a shift to anything else that they’ve done. I know obviously they’ve done Bristol before, but this is essentially the first, proper, full-on, properly designed exhibition purely from Banksy. So it’s pretty amazing. 

“And we are so happy that they chose Glasgow for it.”


Both James and McSheaffrey-Craig also consider the GoMA to be the “perfect fit” for Banksy’s new exhibition, given the gallery’s long history and engagement with issues around social justice and equity.

McSheaffrey-Craig added: “We’ve really found that the Banksy team, as you would expect, are really socially-minded and really connected. That’s why it’s such a brilliant partnership because, as a civic museum, we have a schools programme, we work with communities and we work with charities. 


The Herald:

“We have slots throughout the run where we are working with people we have already worked with at Glasgow Museums or in Glasgow communities. That’s right the way through and tickets are free for those community groups and those charities we are working with. 

“And when the schools come back, we’ve got slots for schools which are free and we are going to bus them in as well so there’s not going to be any cost to the schools. 

“All that stuff is important to make sure the right people can come in and see it for free if they can’t afford it.”