8 books on urban art to offer or to treat yourself!20 December 2022
Books on urban art are still flourishing. Even in these strange times when we are told that there is a shortage of paper for the publishing houses! I’m surprised to see every year dozens of new books, each one more amazing than the other… but not always exciting. So, as in my selection last year, I have tried to clear the field for you! I have eliminated the books whose photos were not qualitative, those which were badly, very badly, written or those too repetitive which show works that everyone has already seen!
Of course the selection is eclectic and varied because we don’t all have the same tastes and that’s also what makes this world rich 😉
An irresistible desire to return to the South West with ” Street Art en Nouvelle – Aquitaine Sud ” by Violaine Pondard published by Ouest France
Bayonne is certainly the Eldorado of urban art in the South West! But thanks to this book, I realised that my research in this beautiful region was only just beginning! Until this book, I had not imagined that one could find works in Pessac, Bègles, Tonneins or even Pau. Of course, like many of you, I have heard of Biarritz or the Espace Darwin in Bordeaux; but the area covered by this book is much wider and, above all, I would like to say much richer!
You will find local artists such as Mr Poulet, Alber, Selor,… to whom the author gives the floor; and also international artists. You will also find precious indications in your quest for Street Art because the book is very precise and does not fail to indicate the streets where the works are hidden. There are even maps to help you find your way! The presentation is neat and pays a nice tribute to the urban art of this region. At the same time, the profile of Violaine Pondard, author, is a guarantee of quality. She is the founder of the association l’Art prend la rue in Vannes and was in charge of the communication for the incredible ephemeral project that was Dédale… As you can see, if I want to take a TGV ticket with the book under my arm, it’s simply because we are dealing with a passionate person who makes us want to rediscover the South West in a different way!
Miniature Street Art in the spotlight with “Street Art XXS” by Edith Pauly at Editions Alternatives
Miniature Street Art is for me like an exquisite candy, the cherry on the cake… At the time of monumental frescoes where urban artists accompany cities in their revalorization for tourist or social purposes. Some artists quickly and discreetly put up their works in much more hidden places. And it is a seasoned eye that you will need to discover them! Street Art XXS is the first existing book on miniature urban art; a form little approached by the media which is nevertheless an art rich in humour, in techniques,… a form of discreet art which imposes itself in the whole world.
If you want to know more about the book, I have published a long review on the site which will certainly help you in your choice 😉
Smile with “Le Rire Urbain” by Sophie Pujas at Editions Alternatives
This book could have been a volume 2 of Street Art XXS, because it is often the urban artists who create small formats that are the most amusing. In a world where the streets of our cities are more and more aggressive, these works full of humour are enchanting interludes that lighten our days. Humour is not necessarily light-hearted, nor even light-hearted, it can be poetic, black, sarcastic, critical… Sophie Pujas, the author of the book, takes us on a journey to the land of smiles by drawing up a portrait of thirty or so committed artists… or just light-hearted! Her ultra-dynamic writing keeps us on the edge of our seats and her love of urban art gives us a different view of the works of Madame, Miss Tic, Levalet, Jace, Ella & Pitr,…
It’s a book I warmly recommend and I’ll review it soon on the blog because it deserves to be read!
Inside Banksy’s head with “Looking for Banksy” by Francesco Matteuzzi and Marco Maraggi published by Hugo Publishing
To say that this book is a UFO is an understatement! It is as fascinating as it is confusing. Its subject is the biggest mystery in urban art; a mystery that you don’t really want to solve anymore! When I got the book in my hands I didn’t really know where to start or just how to approach it. I haven’t read comics for a few years now and the format is therefore rather unknown to me. I took the plunge and then… shock… I couldn’t stop! He revisits the history of this mystery that is Banksy at a dizzying pace, and yet no detail is forgotten!
This graphic novel is much deeper than the script suggests. It shows in the simplest way possible how the social-political world of England in the 1980’s has fed the creative Banksy inexhaustibly. On reading it becomes clear that the author Francesco Matteuzzi is an expert in this field!
The illustrations by Marco Maraggi are quite amazing. There is something very “comic book” about the characters which contrasts with the extremely worked and technical side of the London views. Reading it a second time, I was carried away by these urban landscapes;-) If you want to know more about Banksy and are bored by reading an academic book, Looking for Banksy is for you. Besides, it will also be reviewed soon on the blog because it is too rich to be missed!
Looking for Banksy is available in all good bookshops for 19,95 € TTC and on Amazon for those in a hurry. The book is also available in English and Italian.
Urban art without complexes: “Street Art au-delà des murs” by Claire Champenois, published by Editions du Layeur.
It is certainly the bomb of my selection and I can only position this work in the category “beautiful books”. The central articulation of this imposing book joins, in part, a newsletter I wrote a few months ago on the polemic between graffiti and street art. Here the author, Claire Champenois, does not mince her words and she imposes her vision that goes far beyond walls, even to market squares! In her foreword, the tone is set: “The criteria that guided my choice are based on technique, talent, presence in museums and market value.”
I plunged into this book headlong, thinking that this subject, rather sensitive when it comes to markets and urban art, was more than risky. But here the author had the intelligence to give the artists a voice; her listening leads us to understand their backgrounds, their inspirations, what makes them tick, what they feel about our society, what they wish to bring to it, the reason for the walls to the canvas,… The works chosen to illustrate each artist also lead us to get a closer look at their intimacy.
The author’s artistic choices are daring! Discovering the “serial writer” Lady K alongside Romain Froquet, a graphic artist with harmonious curves, or Amandine Urruty, the most irreverent cartoonist I know… it’s explosive! It’s so explosive that it’s delicious. Personally, I’ve always considered urban art as a major contemporary art and this book, which is quite incredible, confirms me in this position, which has not always been the most comfortable. So for this book I have only one word: BRAVO! Bravo to the author for her eclectic selection of artists and her attentive ear, and Bravo to the publisher who dared to venture into this somewhat dangerous territory. A “must have” for all enthusiasts who are seriously interested in artists’ approaches beyond the walls.
A true panorama of urban art with “Street Art” by Eloi Rousseau published by Larousse
Since 2017, when Lonely Planet published “Street Art”, I have not found any book on street art in its entirety. Of course the subject is vast, and the books I discover over the years focus either on monumental or institutional works, or on countries, or on graffiti. So when I had this Street Art in my hands, I must admit that I was rather critical. But here is a nice surprise! And I’m not talking about the price which is the second nice surprise 😉
The author, Eloi Rousseau, is an art historian and a professor, so the tone is resolutely pedagogical; but you can feel behind it a real passion for urban art. He is keen to tell us about the ancestral birth of urban art, its essence, the cult places that mark its history and also its rather recent mutation. The book is articulated around several universes covering all the subjects related to urban art: political messages, animal representation, optical games, graffiti, pop art,… It obviously takes you around the world and where it is really exciting is that it gives you to see works that very rarely, if ever, circulate on social networks. It’s a great snapshot of what urban art is today from all over the world. An instructive little book to slip into everyone’s hands!
The Essence of Urban Art with Gérard Zlotykamien, by Stéphanie Lemoine, a co-edition by Lienart / Galerie MathGoth
It was impossible for me not to write a monograph on Gérard Zlotykamien. I have always been curious about this discreet artist. I don’t know why, but I have always associated him with contemporary art rather than urban art. His so-called “ephemeral” figures are ghostly, disturbing, sometimes childlike. They have had this seductive potential on me that has never been extinguished. He was the first to paint on walls with an enema bulb, then with a spray can. Dressed in a suit and a briefcase, he gave the impression that he had just left the office. In his briefcase, aerosols!
The author, Sophie Lemoine, sheds light on her life’s path, while not going beyond the thread of her intimacy. His works can be found on the walls of disused factories, stone quarries, rubbish dumps, slaughterhouses, etc. The book is extremely well documented and the testimonies of numerous artists confirm what the man shows us: humble, kind, altruistic and ultimately elusive like his ephemera.
If you are intrigued by the artist, moved by these ephemera, you absolutely must discover this monograph… Which simply tells us that urban art is not as definable as one might imagine.
The memory of New York graffiti with Spray Nation by Martha Cooper published by Prestel. Book in English.
In my previous selection I talked about Subway Art published in 1984 and which became a cult book for graffiti artists. Spray Nation is not a sequel to Subway Art, even if you will find many pictures of painted cars. I only had time to leaf through the book for a few minutes and came across a “baby” painted by Keith Haring on a metal door. In fact, to create this opus, Martha Cooper and editor Roger Gastman examined hundreds of thousands of 35mm Kodachrome slides, carefully selected and digitised them. The photographs range from obscure tags to portraits, action shots, walls and painted underground cars. They are accompanied by heartfelt essays celebrating the photographer’s dynamism, wit and singular vision. The images are a reminder of the New York of the 1980s and the graffiti craze that was taking over the city. Even if it’s in English, it’s an incredible gold mine for American graffiti lovers. I’ll tell you about it once I’ve devoured it on the blog 😉
So which book on urban art will you choose?
Honestly, you are the only ones who can make this choice 😉 I must already admit that the selection I have concocted for you is very tight and there are a number of books missing that did not catch my attention! My two favourites in this selection are Street Art au-delà des murs and Gérard Zlotykamien. But I also want to tell you that urban laughter can only make you start the year in a good mood;-) and then this UFO on Banksy is also something! If you are rather new to the subject; Street Art seems to me a very good starting point. If you are passionate about contemporary art, Street Art beyond the walls is for you… It’s all a question of sensibility, and also of knowing how far you want to push your knowledge in this domain, much more complex than it seems 😉 If you have any hesitation, don’t hesitate to leave me a little comment or send me a message and I’ll do my best to help you in your choice.
Before I wish you all a very happy holiday season, I wanted to announce that in 2023 you will now find a monthly review of a book on urban art on the blog. I have received a lot of questions from you about the different books I presented in my selection last year, so I think it is time to move on to more complete reviews of each book 😉
And that’s it! The year is coming to an end and I just want to go back to the adventure to discover new spots, even crazier than those of 2022! Have a great holiday season and enjoy your loved ones 😉