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Mat Bancroft's Manifesto for Pop Culture Curation & Art Direction: The Art and Science of Pop Culture Curation & Art Direction

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

In the labyrinth of contemporary creativity, where the intersection of art and culture transcends boundaries, Mat Bancroft emerges as a luminary, guiding the way through his manifesto for pop culture curation and art direction. Bancroft, a seasoned art director and curator focusing on popular culture, is not merely a practitioner but a visionary. His collaborative efforts with legendary musician Johnny Marr and notable projects like True Faith showcase his commitment to curating the zeitgeist of our times. Bancroft's manifesto unfolds as a tapestry of principles, each thread meticulously woven to define the essence of his artistic journey.

Johnny Marr, Natasha Kay-Sportelli, and Mat Bancroft. Crazy Face Factory, Manchester.

Photo credit: Ben Thornley @ Sitcom Soldiers


For Bancroft, the first principle is to 'See Around the Corners.' It is a call to assemble, catalog, manage, and present the artistic and cultural intricacies that lie beyond the obvious. His approach transcends mere documentation; it is a quest to uncover the unusual and unexpected, making bold statements that resonate with passions and beliefs. Bancroft shares, "It starts with the purpose and why we are doing this." In the process of meticulous curation, he advocates for a thorough exploration, a journey through archives and information, to discern the signal from the noise. It is the art of seeing beyond the surface, bringing order to chaos, and presenting a unified narrative that is a testament to the documented period.


Bancroft emphasizes being 'Principle-Led' as the foundation of artistic identity. Defining purpose and mission, setting constraints, and adhering to principles are crucial in delineating one's creative boundaries. By appreciating differences and embracing constraints, a unique artistic identity is forged. Bancroft's intentional selectivity and discipline in project choices reflect a commitment to values and taste, resulting in a portfolio with integrity and conviction.

According to Bancroft, creativity is a process marked by sacrifice, adversity, and persistence, not merely an avenue for instant fame. It is a journey guided by a moral compass shaped by principles.

3 Immerse Yourself in the Culture and Aesthetics of Your Work

The third principle calls for a deep dive into the culture and aesthetics of one's work. Bancroft urges fellow curators and art directors to research, understand, and synthesize essential facts and themes, crafting installations and exhibitions that breathe life into stories. As Bancroft sees it, the curator's role is to "fight for the art against the tensions that counter it," ensuring that the narrative's emotional core is preserved and conveyed.

4 Craftsmanship

The fourth principle is 'Craftsmanship,' an ode to excellence in one's craft. Bancroft advocates for substance and integrity in what is dreamed, made, and executed. Art and science converge in creating elegantly composed, brand-positioned solutions. The mantra is 'less is more,' with craftsmanship laser-focused on essentials, reflecting the artist's mindfulness and respect for the audience. Bancroft's commitment to continuous learning and honing his craft underscores the timeless nature of creativity in the ever-evolving digital age.

5 Collaboration

The final principle, 'Collaboration,' speaks to the power of unifying multiple fields. Bancroft extols the virtues of learning by doing in a social environment, where collaboration with experts across diverse domains catalyzes innovation. He thrives on exchanging ideas, skills, and resources, embracing a diversity of specialist input that broadens perspectives and networks.

"Creativity in the Digital Age" shoot. Left to Right: Johnny Marr, Ben Thornley, Mat Bancroft, and James Fisher. Crazy Face Factory, Manchester. Photo credit: Roy Sharples

As we delve into Mat Bancroft's manifesto, we are not merely witnessing a set of guidelines but entering a realm where art, culture, and principles converge. Bancroft's vision transcends the ordinary, inviting us to see around the corners, be principle-led, immerse ourselves in culture, uphold craftsmanship, and embrace collaboration. In this manifesto, the art and science of pop culture curation and art direction find a harmonious balance—a testament to Mat Bancroft's enduring influence on the creative landscape.

Listen to the podcast

Music composed and performed by Iain Mutch

Thank you: Johnny Marr, Ben Thornley, James Fisher, Malcolm Smith, Natasha Kay-Sportelli, and Sitcom Soldiers.


Roy Sharples

Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins Creative Studios, is in the fight against unoriginality by unleashing creative bravery. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."

Photo credit: Brian Smale

Attitude. Imagination. Execution.

Unknown Origins Creative Studios. All rights reserved © copyright 2021


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