"This book does not claim to be a definitive survey of street art across the globe," Lou Chamberlain writes in the introduction to this book. "Rather, it is a snapshot that captures a moment in time..."
Chamberlain's travels include trips to New York, Dublin, London, Warsaw and Rio de Janeiro as well as Sydney and Melbourne in her native Australia. Street art superstars such as Bristol local Banksy and American Shepherd Fairey (the man behind President Obama's now iconic "Hope" campaign posters and material) to less well-known names such as Low Bros in Berlin and Mexican artist Paola Delfin in Barcelona.
It's interesting to compare different styles from the photorealism of artists such as Owen Dippie in Auckland to the Pop Art of Ron English in Rome and surrealism of Blu in Berlin; the vibrant colour schemes in South America to the monochrome depictions in Warsaw. But you can also draw comparisons - it's incredible just how often eyes are used as a theme across the globe. I'm reminded of the pair of giant spectacles staring out from a billboard in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. There's probably a thesis in there somewhere. Of course, thanks to social media, these images are endlessly shared and ideas know no borders. It's probably thanks to social media that the status of street art has been elevated in most areas with works by Banksy fetching millions of pounds and becoming much coveted collector's items. But at the same time, draconian local councils are coming down on artists, removing the work of even well-known names. And yet more and more works appear to replace them.
What I find interesting is how certain areas become focal points for street art - downtown Los Angeles (sadly, not included here), Brick Lane in London, New York's Bushwick. But that's not a subject explored here. The story of street art is tied inextricably to that of immigration and gentrification. Many of the featured artists are not native to the cities in which they work. I'd like to see a book tell that story.
There are some superb examples included here, including Otto Schade's "Irony, Burn" in Camden, Ron English's "Baby Hulk" in Rome and Hopare's striking portrait of FKA Twigs in Belleville, Paris.
If I have a quibble it's that Chamberlain provides no real context and this book is far from comprehensive (there are only eight pages on Asian street art, for example). Nonetheless, there are enough stunning examples included here to keep you coming back.
As she writes: "[These] artworks are nonetheless united in their ability to reach out to us from the urban landscape, speak to us and make us smile."
Street Art International is available from Amazon.co.uk and all good bookshops.