September 12, 2023

Great Artists Steal – Banksy Art Exhibition


While travelling in Amsterdam, we went to an art museum that was hosting an exhibition from Banksy. I love his work and it was the only reason I would go to an art museum. Don’t judge me but I find most of them incredibly boring.

Great Artists Steal

Anyway, there was a piece of artwork that I found quite thought provoking as I wasn’t sure about what I thought of it at the time.

It was a quote in stone that read:



Underneath the quote, the name PABLO PICASSO was scratched out and replaced with BANKSY.

My Thoughts

At first, I was totally against this idea as stealing seems wrong and imitating seems inauthentic. This got me thinking that there should be a third line. Perhaps…


Some Research

I kept reflecting on the quote over the next few weeks to the point where I did a bit of research.

I discovered that Picasso may have stolen this from (or been inspired by) T.S. Eliot when he said:

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.

The above helped me make sense of the quote.

When we try and imitate what someone else is doing it never feels authentic. But when we take something from someone that we love, admire or respect and make that part of our own authentic self or our work, then perhaps that is how we or our work evolve into a better and more unique version.

While researching I also came across a quote from David Bowie who said:

The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.

So, do we ever really create anything new without the influence of people before us?