I enjoy street art. I like the colour, the boldness and the frequent subversiveness. And I like the way that street art is often associated with the renewal of places that have been damaged, whether through poverty, violence, or – as in the case of Christchurch, New Zealand – by earthquake.
So I was very happy to receive a review copy of Street Art by Ed Bartlett, a new title from Lonely Planet. This lavishly illustrated book is a celebration of street art in cities around the world, from New York to London to Johannesburg. It shows how street art has become much more than just “graffiti”, and how it has emerged into an art form of its own.
The book begins with a brief introduction, pointing out that painting on walls was the earliest known form of human art. It draws an important distinction between street art and graffiti, saying that it is essential for artists to “continue to respect their environment – and most importantly the communities within them”. Then there are explorations of art in 42 different cities. The majority are in Europe, North America and Latin America, but street art is universal and cities from elsewhere are also featured.
Most of the time the art is allowed to speak for itself, sharing its message from the pages of the book just as it does from the sides of buildings. Even for cities like San Francisco or London where I had explored the street art, I managed to find something new here. Street Art also contains listings of street art galleries (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms!), and of the various festivals that take place throughout the year.
Travellers can use Street Art as a guide, with suggestions for where to see the best street art in the cities they visit. Any anyone with an interest in art will enjoy the interviews with street artists and the descriptions of how street art has evolved in different places (sometimes treated with suspicion in Copenhagen but greeted with enthusiasm in Stavanger in Norway…) But I suspect that many readers will be content to travel vicariously with the author, and just to enjoy the many colourful and vibrant pictures.
Street Art is available from the Lonely Planet shop, price £14.99