Martin Bull is an author and photographer based out of England, who took is interest in street art and tried to share it with others. It seems he used to lead tours to show people great street art, including of course pieces by Banksy. He initially published a tour book with locations and directions, but of course street art is ephemeral and it had often been washed off by the time people arrived. So, he published a second edition eliminating the directions from one location to the other, and now the books serve as a record of a certain time period in street art in London.
The book contains lots of really good photos of street art, largely consisting of pieces by Banksy but also some by Faile , Shepard Fairey and Space Invader as well as other artists. Space Invader and Shepard Fairey are familiar to people who have seen Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop and through the famous Obama poster, and Faile has recently collaborated with the New York City Ballet on an art project. It is interesting how some of these artists have become so recognizable in widespread popular culture.
These two books are particularly interesting because Bull both discusses and shows how the art changes over time – he has some photos of pieces when they are relatively new, after unsuccessful attempts to clean them by the authorities, and how they fade naturally over time. He also discusses a notable graffiti battle between Banksy and someone named Robbo – it seems Banksy painted over an old piece of an early (and seemingly more traditional) artist named Robbo, and consequently Robbo and hid followers made it their mission for some time to tag and alter Banksy pieces. It is funny, because it seems so petty given the nature of graffiti, and also because some of those Banksy pieces are worth enormous amounts of money should someone be able to claim ownership and remove them from the wall for auction. Bull does briefly talk about exhibiting and selling famous pieces, and was outraged that people were using his book as evidence of provenience. He would rather the art stay as it is, on the street. I tend to agree, particularly given that Banksy has been known to do exhibits and sales of his own. This is a great set of books, enormously fun to read with profits going to the Big Issue charity.