05: Banksy

This series examines imaginative people from different walks of life and attempts to deconstruct what makes them creative, unique and innovative.

Banksy, an artist (graffiti artist mostly), icon, social activist, author, director and rebel, has probably as many admirers as he/she has detractors. Banksy works in the shadows and no-one knows if ‘it’ is a man, woman, or group for that matter.

From graffiti bombing walls in Bristol (UK) during the 1990’s to an artist whose work now commands thousands, he has moved from graffiti on city walls to paint on canvas, conceptual sculpture and even film, with the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

In my opinion Banksy is a master of imagination for a number of reasons:


Banksy has created a mystique similar to pop icons like Prince, or Daft Punk. No one knows what or who Banksy is but most have heard Banksy’s name or have seen some of the artists work. In a world where we are bombarded by ‘guerilla marketing’ campaigns that frankly everyone can see through, Banksy represents the real deal. During the London Games, he posted two images of new street art online—a javelin thrower lobbing a missile, and a pole vaulter soaring over a barbed-wire fence- but the locations of the artwork wasn’t disclosed, adding once again to the Banksy ‘legend’.



One thing that Banksy has created is polarisation- a lot of people admire the work, equally others find it an affront. There is no ‘in between’ when it comes to what Banksy stands for and is about. Banksy has been quoted as saying ‘The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages’. Many of the masters of imagination I study have some form of rebellious streak in them- maybe not as explicit as Banksy but it’s there. A learning here is that in many companies the ‘rebel’s are either ignored or dismissed, perhaps it might be better to harness that rebel energy?


One of the many Banksy editions of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” titled: “Mona Lisa Smile”

Memorable experiences

Banksy focuses on big impact activities that make a social, political or cultural statement. In a world brimming full of content and marketing noise, Banksy’s activities create real impact. For example at the Louvre he succeeded in installing an image of the Mona Lisa plastered with a smiley-face sticker. In Israel he painted a series of images on the West Bank’s concrete wall, part of the barrier built to try to stop suicide bombers. Images of a girl clutching balloons as she is transported to the top of a wall; two stenciled children with bucket and spade dreaming of a beach; and a boy with a ladder propped against the wall were poignant meditations on the theme of escape.


Banksy’s Dismaland


Multidimensional canvas

Banksy’s canvases range from static street art, performance art, sculpture, the web, immersive environments, film, and pop ups. His ‘Dismaland’ concept- a large scale group show lampooning Disneyland was a full walk-through ‘bemusement park’. In 2013 a pop-up boutique of about 25 spray-art canvases appeared on 5th Avenue NYC. Tourists were able to buy Banksy art for just $60 each. In a note posted to his website, the artist wrote: “Please note this was a one-off. The stall will not be there again.” In an age obsessed with ‘Omni-channels’ and ‘AR/VR’ it is perhaps more useful to think about the world as a multi-dimensional canvas where different types of emotions and immersions can be deployed to challenge, emote, and engage.

How might your organisation harness it’s inner Banksy?

Collaborating with RTE’s The Innovation Show, Katawave’s ‘Masters of Imagination’ is a series where we look at the pillars upon which these interesting built how they work. Learn about their key principles and how to adopt them yourself to create a truly imaginative and innovative organisation. Listen to RTE’s radio 1 on Saturday’s at 3pm. Or download the podcast on iTunes if you missed it.