Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Book review: The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti

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Winston Aldworth finds charm in a mapless atlas for fans of unusual art encounters.

'The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti', by Rafael Schacter.
'The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti', by Rafael Schacter.

I was standing on a balcony in Toledo a decade or so back when I thought to myself "damn, that little, old mosaic on the wall over there kind of looks like a space invader".

It was, of course, a space invader. It wasn't, however, particularly old.

The French street artist known as Invader is one of the artists featured in the The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti.

His pieces, derived from old video-game imagery, have been popping up across Europe since the mid-1990s. They're discreet and very cool - and, inevitably, they've spawned imitators (possibly including the small piece I saw in Toledo).

This is a terrific book to whet the appetite for amazing street art, but unfortunately it fails to deliver on a couple of key elements of know-how.

As it's purported to be an atlas, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti really ought to grace its readers with one or two maps or guides for getting around. Many of the chapter introductions suggest vague directions to travel - in Paris, ride lines 2 and 6 on the Metro. But a couple of detailed plans for walking tours would have been nice.

In truth though, the maplessness of the atlas is a small matter. This book will take its place on the shelves of art lovers and for travellers its purpose is to be a starting point; a source of inspiration - perhaps the authors are banking on readers to log on and follow up with a little research to find the art themselves. If there's not an app out there already running live information on local street art, there soon will be.

Many of the cities featured in here are home to established street art tours - shoreditchstreetarttours.co.uk takes in the London stomping ground of the now ubiquitous Banksy; in Argentina buenosairesstreetart.com plays host.

Having a guide can be a big help as in even the coolest city you can walk a lot of drab, grey streets before chancing upon something great.

The street art celebrated in these pages covers a broad swath beyond goofs witlessly scribbling their names on someone else's wall. But the best street art still carries a renegade feeling; the cheeky act of stealing an undeveloped canvas and making it beautiful.

Latin cities came up good in this book. The shots of Madrid, Barcelona and Buenos Aires make the places look fantastic, adding to the rich design legacy of the cities.

There's plenty of good stuff listed to be seen in Melbourne, and Auckland and Wellington get honourable mentions.

So, a beautiful coffee table book to inspire your travels or your art. But you'll need something extra when you're on the road.

- NZ Herald

World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti Rafael Schacter RRP: $68.95

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