The History Of Melbourne’s Street Art
When it comes to street art in Australia, Melbourne has reigned supreme for decades thanks to the varied laneways which exist here – and are popular tourist attractions, like Hosier Lane.
Ever since the 1980s, graffiti and tagging were pretty prevalent here; especially in the inner suburban areas of the city, and along the train lines that led out into the suburbs. Graffiti and street art was burgeoning more than ever before, and Melbourne needed to address this issue in a way which forced a positive outcome.
As a result, the city of Melbourne managed to push ahead of many cities across the globe who have a real graffiti problem; dedicating certain areas of the city to street artists to really let loose on their craft. And while there is still unsolicited graffiti seen in many areas; it is cleaned up by the city a lot faster. It also remains less of problem for the city with educational and graffiti mentor programs in place; which help keep Melbourne clean and it’s street art more contained to the appropriate places.
Melbourne’s Stencil Art Street Art Scene
Melbourne’s street art really exploded since the early 2000’s, with stencil art leading the charge.
In 2004, there was even a stencil art festival held there, which was the first of its kind in the world; and really helped put Melbourne on the map for being one of the street art capitals. Since then, particular laneways in Melbourne, like Hosier Lane have been dedicated to street art; and in turn have become the hottest tourist attractions for visitors who are exploring Melbourne – as well as internationally renowned street artists like Banksy who have left their mark on the city.
Melbourne’s Street Art Laneway Tour: Hosier Lane, Union Lane & ACDC Lane
Hosier Lane, Union Lane and ACDC Lane are the most popular laneways to visit in Melbourne; with Instagrammers going nuts as they showcase the talents of the city’s street artists. But, with an ever changing backdrop, the artwork changes regularly here as it is not meant to be preserved but appreciated as it comes and goes. So if you see something you like on social media, don’t wait too long to get down there and see it for yourself.
Hosier Lane is the go-to street art laneway for all tourists in Melbourne. Nestled between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, there is always art to photograph here…or a marriage proposal! It does get busy at times, but not enough to impact enjoying it all. This is a true icon of Melbourne, so much so that in early 2018, Ed Sheeran famously gave an impromptu performance at the Flinders Street entrance whilst in town for his record breaking concert series.
Union Lane is not as large as Hosier, but it is well worth a detour to if you are visiting the Bourke Street Mall Shopping Precinct. Union Lane is just one laneway, which I like for its symmetry. On Sundays, you will likely see artists working on pieces, which is always interesting to watch.
Be aware, that Union Lane does not always smell the best – but all this aside, it is worth a stop on your street art tour of Melbourne.
ACDC Lane, has clear ties to the rock music genre, with it’s namesake being the Australian rock legends, ACDC. ACDC Lane was originally named Corporation Lane – but was changed in 2004 in tribute to the Scottish born, Aussie rockers. Melbourne remains a mecca for ACDC fans, as the band were based in Melbourne upon re-locating from Sydney, and they even shot their “It’s A Long Way To The Top” music video on nearby Swanston Street.
Like all of the laneways, the art here does change – though not as frequently as the others from what I see. I regularly visit the Garden State Hotel, a stone’s throw away from ACDC Lane on Flinders Lane, for drinks and food and the Crayola style design you can see below has been there for a good 6 months at least.
There are other parts of Melbourne which are also known for their street art and urban culture with the café mecca of Degraves Street in the CBD, Chapel Street in Prahan, and Brunswick Street in Fitzroy; all places worth exploring. In fact, many restaurants, cafes and stores in the city do have street art in their exterior designs; adding value to the vibe that already exists in these areas, like those found within the South Melbourne market, where Chez Dre is located.
Melbourne Street Art Tour: Upper West Side Precinct Murals
Launching in December 2017, the city of Melbourne officially launched the Upper West Side Precinct Murals within the south end area of the city (between Little Bourke and Spencer streets); in a collaboration with 6 influential artists and street art collective, Juddy Roller.
The murals, each offer their own feel and ambiance within this precinct; but together they complement each other as well. The 6 artists involved in this precinct – 6 for now, as there is bound to be more art works being added to this; are Smug, Dvate, Adnate, Sofles, Rone and Fintan Magee. I personally love the details in Sofles artwork most, as the detail of the beard on the man was just incredible. But Adnate’s piece of the Aboriginal boy was a close second. Amazing talents here – and I can’t wait to see more as they are produced.
There are 5 pieces on Little Bourke Street, all clustered together in the one street area; and 1 on Spencer Street (turn right when at the Little Bourke Street/ Spencer Street intersection, cross the road and turn around). You will see it on the wall.
Make Sure You Take A Street Art Tour When Visiting Melbourne
If you plan on visiting Melbourne, it will quickly become clear just how much street art has influenced this city and given it it’s edge over others in Australia, and even the world. So don’t miss out on seeing it for yourself when walking around the city streets or the many laneways that feature it. You don’t need to do an authorised street art tour when visiting, but most of the main street art locations are included in the free walking tours that companies offer – so you won’t miss them if you do one.
If you love street art and want to immerse yourself in some truly hipster areas, be sure to check out other places in Melbourne like St.Kilda and Fitzroy – some of the coolest areas of Melbourne that appeal to so many.