Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

Impressionist Innovation: How Does Banksy Measure Up?


Banksy, like other media-savvy artists before him, such as Warhol, has a talent for drawing public and media attention to his work, even as it is criticized by the art establishment. Banksy uses a formula derived from the Impressionists (read Part I for the four rules), the same artists on exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais, and outlines how anyone attempting to innovate – in art or in business – can learn from them.

If you are a contemporary innovator, whether in the arts or another sphere, take note of the Impressionist formula for success. If it worked then, and as Banksy is proving, it can work today. But you’ve got to go the distance and make a few enemies along the way.

So how does Banksy measure up?

Rule 1

A driving idea that is radical in nature. Street art is definitely radical, and Banksy is pushing it so far from its origins in graffiti that he is radical even to street artists.

Rule 2

New rules of expression. Definitely! Banksy does portraits, silhouettes, giant drawings of flowers, and other art on the sides of buildings and freeway underpasses, and even on cows (the following message appeared in dairy herds in England recently: “To advertise here call 0800 Banksy“). He flaunts conventions of artistic expression and develops his own. One of his most important new rules is the use of stencils, which he prepares in his studio before going out onto the street, so as to be able to produce more detailed and elaborate art more quickly and prolifically. Impressionists did not use stencils. It’s kind of shocking to conventional artists. But Banksy needs his new rules of expression in order to qualify as a major innovator.

Rule 3

New venues for sales. Banksy, like the Impressionists before him, takes his art to the public, and is highly visible despite being excluded from major galleries and museums. (Yes, those prestigious New York museums took his pieces down, although his discount soup can a la Warhol managed to stay on an exhibition wall at the MOMA for three days before curators realized it did not belong.) Once Banksy‘s work had become ubiquitous at street level and in the media, prestigious art galleries began to carry his pieces. Sotheby’s and other high-end auction houses have also begun to handle Banksy work. In theend, the radical innovator who reaches directly to the public for recognition does end up being embraced by the traditional distribution channel that originally turned him down, as both Monet and Banksy could attest.

Rule 4

A large and enthusiastic body of work. Banksy pioneered the street artist’s technique of spreading one’s art broadly in public spaces of major cities around the world. His work became ubiquitous on the street, and in coverage of street art by the media, before he was “discovered” by galleries. Unlike many street artists, Banksy thinks globally. His art is not confined to one city or even one continent. His work has been seen by millions because he produces a great deal of it, and makes sure it is placed in front of a high volume of street or road traffic.

ALEX HIAM ( has written more than 20 books on marketing, creativity and innovation, including Business Innovation For Dummies. As an award-winning painter and photographer, he turns to the Impressionists for inspiration in his own innovative work. Hiam’s creative works are on display in galleries in New York and Rome.

This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

Tagged as: , , , ,