Graffiti books are a perfect present and a must-have in the home library of any art-lover. Whether you're an artist, a graffiti connoisseur or you just want to enjoy looking at beautifully illustrated pages, filled with interesting stories of personal success and the social movement in the making, these ten books will make a perfect choice. From comprehensive compendiums with compelling photographs of artwork around the world, categorized by the continent, via the books which are an important historic document that chronicles the birth of graffiti and includes iconic images of long-removed art on the trains of New York, to monographs and works that showcase all the beauty of national street art styles, the books don't get more badass than this.
Rafael Schacter, an anthropologist at University College of London, carried out a rather challenging project – to present the diversity of public art across the world and its historical context. In 400 pages he included 5 continents, 25 countries and 113 artists, in order to make an extensive reference on public art. The full analysis of contemporary street art and graffiti scene wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Schacter’s attention to detail and his striving to understand the background, the story behind every artwork presented. Choosing which artists to exclude from the list wasn’t an easy task. The author narrowed down the artists using three parameters: the artists had to be active, to exhibit mainly outdoors and to represent a certain style. In this way, the book encompasses everything from Brazilian murals to simple tags on mailboxes, from Shepard Fairey in Los Angeles to Anthony Lister in Australia.
Editors’ Tip: The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti.
Nicholas Ganz is a German graffiti artist, and the author of several other street art books. Together with Tristan Manco, a graphic artist in the music and film industries, he offers the readers a very comprehensive guide on the worldwide graffiti scene, with over 2,000 pictures of artworks from more than 180 international artists. The book includes the material Ganz collected while travelling the world, in addition to the quotes by the artists themselves. This beautiful glossy book encompasses both established graffiti writers and the ones which are less known, with vibrant illustrative photos and short biographies. The first edition of the book was published in 2004, the second one with a new section devoted to work created in the meantime was published five years later.
Editors’ Tip: Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents.
Nicholas Ganz, the author of the book Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents, this time presents a comprehensive survey on the street art created by female artists, both famed graffiti writers and the emerging stars. From America’s Swoon to Japan’s Sasu, this book features 1,000 full-color illustrations, digs deeper into the lives of these women and explores what it’s like to be a woman in the male-dominated street art world. It also includes two eight-page fold-out collages, a fold-out poster jacket, an introduction by Nancy MacDonald and a foreword by Swoon.
Editors’ Tip: Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents.
One of the most badass books on our list is Wall and Piece by Banksy. The most famous and notorious street artist on the planet has published several books which include the photographs of his own artwork around the globe, accompanied by his writings. Wall and Piece was published in 2005, and a it was a best-seller in the arts category a few years following its release. It won’t tell you more about who Banksy is, but you will enjoy his work categorized under six groups: monkeys, cops, rats, cows, art, and street furniture. It contains the artwork from his previous books, as well as some new material. If you are looking for a humorous, thought-provoking and provocative art book, look no further.
Editors’ Tip: Wall and Piece.
In 1984, Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, the two of the best street art photographers, collaborated on one of the most influential and popular graffiti books, which documented the very beginnings of NYC underground graffiti culture. At that time, they had no idea how much the urban art scene would flourish in the years to come. Whereas Chalfant focused only on the graffiti, without its context, Cooper liked to add a bit of the story. She capture the graffiti writer in action, and not only the artist, but the New York of the 1980’s. Half a million copies and 25 years later, the 25th anniversary edition was released. The new, oversized version includes numerous new images and the authors reflection on the project and its importance.
Editors’ Tip: Subway Art.
Remo Camerota is an Australian photographer, film maker, artist and author. When he went to Tokyo and started working on Graffiti Japan, the first English-language book dedicated to Japanese graffiti, he was surprised by the productivity of Japanese street artists and he ended up taking 15,000 photos for the book. Whereas Japanese graffiti are similar in many ways to the other graffiti art around the world, it is also very different. Japanese tradition, manga and anime characters, calligraphy, simple geometry and brilliant freehand work make the Japanese street art style so unique. While working on the book, Camerota befriended many graffiti crews and interviewed them in order to get the most complete look at this country’s graffiti art.
Editors’ Tip: Graffiti Japan.
Carlo McCormick, a pop culture critic, curator and Senior Editor of Paper magazine, teamed up with Marc and Sara Schiller of Wooster Collective, and Ethel Seno to create an anthology which chronicles the rise of street art and its social impact. With exclusive preface by Banksy and many unpublished images of street art and photographs by the movement’s leading figures Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Martha Cooper, this book isn’t only about graffiti. Its also includes illicit performance, outdoor interventions, sculpture, that make a statement in the social space and represent activism, democracy and freedom of speech. It features key works of over 150 figures of the street art movement, such as Os Gemeos, Shepard Fairey, Blu and Guerrilla Girls.
Editors’ Tip: Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art.
The Faith Of Graffiti is the book which consists of an essay by Norman Mailer written in 1974, accompanied by Jon Naar’s iconic photographs. The book documents the birth of graffiti as an art form in the New York City. Norman’s brilliant text compares the first graffiti writers with art geniuses and Naar’s cleverly shot photos perfectly capture the zeitgeist of the time and the country torn by the Vietnam War. This classic, still relevant and important 40 years later, was republished in 2009, with 32 new pages of additional photos.
Editors’ Tip: The Faith Of Graffiti.
Obey: Supply & Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey by Shepard Fairey, is a massive, comprehensive monograph of the famed street artist, which encompasses his entire body of work, from his early Obey Giant sticker campaign to his best-known work – Obama “”Hope” poster. It was published in 2009, as a retrospective to 20 prolific years that passed since the famous Obey Giant campaign in 1989. With the help of renowned writers and critics such as Carlo McCormick, Steven Heller, Henry Rollins and many more, the 446 page book, brimming with excellent photography, stunning art and high quality pages, offers an insight into the colorful life and work of Shepard Fairey.
Editors’ Tip: Obey: Supply & Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey.
Don Karl aka Stone, German street artist and Pascal Zoghbi, Lebanese typographer, teamed up to make a unique book titled Arabic Graffiti, which presents the beautiful fusion of traditional Arabic calligraphy styles and modern graffiti techniques. This stunning book showcases street artists and typographers from the Middle East (some of them are presented in our Top 10 article on Contemporary Graffiti Calligraphers) The topic of merging traditional and contemporary is rounded up by including various essays, a brief history of the Arabic script and a history of contemporary Arabic calligraphy to the book.
Editors’ Tip: Arabic Graffiti.
Read Other Interesting Stories
The graffiti and hip hop archives of the pioneering photographer Henry Chalfant returns to the Bronx - a place where it all began.
The Learn&Skate; project brought 1UP Crew, Siker, Maya Hayuk and Martha Cooper in Ulaanbataar, to enrich its urban landscape and help kids skate!
We catch up with Croatian artist Lunar in Belgrade, where he is presenting his first book of artworks created worldwide in the past three decades.