Relaxed laws around street art, a plethora of abandoned buildings and the Latino taste for adding magic to the mundane make the Argentine capital a free-for-all playground for street artists. The city hosts international street art festivals and its well-organised Buenos Aires Street Art collective has sponsored mural projects in Coghlan and Villa Urquiza that have transformed these neighbourhoods into the city's first urban art district.
EAST SIDE GALLERY, BERLIN
While the western side of the Berlin Wall was always a target for graffiti artists, the east side, facing communist East Germany, was bare. In 1989, when it ceased to be a barrier, this 1300-metre section of the Berlin Wall morphed into the world's longest street-art canvas. Edgy and often sardonic, many of the gallery's 100 murals are now celebrated for their iconic status.
From the 1980s when graffiti artists began daubing the city's walls by night in protest against the communist regime, street art has morphed into a more whimsical form of expression not just for the discontented. While the Lennon Wall, the city's street-art icon, has suffered from graffitists, the former working class suburb of Zizkov, Vltavská Metro Station and the boho-favourite Holesovice are where the action is. Expect a touch of Kafka.
THE LANEWAYS, MELBOURNE
Hosier Lane. Photo: iStock
Street art has blossomed in the dark and narrow passageways of the laneways at the heart of the city, with love, politics, anarchy and social angst spelled out on the walls in a world-class display. Hosier Lane, Union Lane, AC/DC Lane and Croft Alley form the nexus, a perfect side serve to the laneways' bar/cafe scene, but Fitzroy's Johnston and Rose streets deserve a long look.
NEW YORK CITY
Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi mural created by Eduardo Kobra at the corner of W 18th Street and 10th Avenue, Manhattan, New York. Photo: iStock
The white-hot centre of the genre, NYC has a long and vibrant street art scene, helped along by an enlightened administration that has recruited more than 200 young artists to paint the city's dull and crime-ridden housing projects. Just off Brooklyn's Flushing Avenue, the Bushwick Collective is a transformative graffiti and art project that has attracted the supreme talents of the genre, displayed on the area's industrial and residential buildings Download the Street Art NYC app and you're away.
Witty, irreverent and pointed, the capital's street art is focused on Shoreditch, with Covent Garden and Camden as sidebars and Leake Street Tunnel beneath Waterloo Station a pilgrimage site for connoisseurs of the genre. The city's East End walls were the scene of a famous shoot-out with paintbrushes drawn between the legendary Banksy and King Robbo, who ritually defaced each other's art in a running street art battle starting in 2009.
This is Chile's cultural cauldron, a hubble-bubble of creative energy, vitality and itchy spirits. Some of its artists have taken their brushes to the streetscapes, decorating the houses with huge murals that celebrate, criticise, inflame and entertain. A distinctive South American voice emerges in the narrative street-art works that spread their wings as they abandon dull reality – magical realism transported from print to walls, paint instead of pen.
ARTS DISTRICT, LOS ANGELES
This post-industrial streetscape of former warehouses and factories in Downtown LA has become a city-sanctioned mecca for murals with more than 100 artworks. Some of the biggest names in contemporary street art have left their mark on the walls including Nychos, Ricardo Gonzalez, Chris Chan Shim, LA's own illumin-arty Tristan Eaton and Neuman, one of the small but growing number of women street artists.
Witty as well as pretty, the street art of Paris is as accomplished as you'd expect from the city that gave the world some of the greatest names in 19th and 20th century art. Works are scattered throughout the city, aided and abetted by a city hall with a new-found enthusiasm for street art. The mother lode is to be found in the north-east of Paris, in the louche districts of Belleville, Oberkampf and Menilmontant.
Street art took root here in the 1990s with returning emigres fired by the urban artworks of New York and LA, but rather than a derivative form these bright, exultant murals take their cues from the fantastic and Mayan-infused Mexican culture. The hotspots include La Romita, Plaza Luis Cabrera, Coyocan for its naive religious art and add an asterisk to Avenida Reforma, where you can see some of the finest works of Axolotl Collective.