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Our Streets are the Largest Art Gallery in the World

Over the last 6 months, Urban Times have featured the work being done at Global Street Art; a platform dedicated to street art and graffiti. Seeing our city streets as the largest art gallery in the world, over the last 7 years the founders have collated 70,000 photographs of street art in over 20 countries and have classified every photograph in the archive by artist, technique, content (and more). Urban Times got the chance to speak to co-founder Dr. Lee Bofkin. He tells us about the coffee table book that Global Street Art is curating; featuring hundreds of photographs alongside interviews with legends and old-school graffiti writers within the street art realm. We also hear about the work being done as part of their Walls Project which finds new places for artists to paint in London.

Hunto and Milo Tchais side by side. Image courtesy of Global Street Art

As a breakdancer and with a Phd in Evolutionary Mathematics, what attracted you to the world of graffiti?

My breakdance background! Graffiti was often in or near the places where I was dancing/competing so I started taking photos casually. I used my knowledge of taxonomy/classification when I built the archive. The discipline helped me classify the photos.

Which street artist's work most inspires you and why?

There isn't one – there's just far too many. I like Zezao a lot (Brazil) because of where he paints – sewers, out of reach places, etc. His work is stunning and he uses it to beautify some of the most unloved and ignored spaces in society.

Zezao. Image courtesy of Global Street Art

What is your favourite graffiti mural of all time?

I have lots of favourites. One that always blows my mind is by Odeith (Lisbon). The photo below is from last year – I doubt it still exists.

Odeith. Image Courtesy of Global Street Art

Why the focus on the coffee table book? Could it possibly be the Subway Art of the 21st century?

I'd like the book to mark this unique time in the world of street art. In years to come we may look back on this period as when we started painting the world more. There's been a big rise in the number of well organised street art festivals around the World in the past 5 years.

This book is likely to be important though – I already know some of the folks I'm interviewing and I'm very proud that they're part of this project.

[Help fund the making of the book on unbound and get your name printed in every edition.]

Zina. Image Courtesy of Global Street Art

Could you explain what you hope to achieve with the Walls project?

Paint the city you love! To inspire people to help artists paint our cities more. To help people see how great an asset street art can be to a city. To empower people into changing the spaces around them and to help us connect with our cities because of the relationship we have with transforming the space.

Can you envisage a future where street art is legalized?

It already is. I'm not sure there would be a future where all street art and graffiti could be legalised but I'm not pushing for that. Illegal graffiti is a subculture all on its own and, because its illegal, there's not much involvement we can possibly have except taking photos.

Where do you hope Global Street Art will be in 20 years time?

A commercially viable museum that supports street art in its city and around the world. This means a museum that supports walls outside, has academic value and supports exhibitions. We'll keep building a community and painting walls to get there!

Phlegm. Image Courtesy of Global Street Art