We were walking through a part of the Central Business District in Melbourne when my guide explained why there was less graffiti in that area of town. Part of the reason included recounting a story about why you will see stencil art in places around the city outside the designated safe zones, which are comprised of streets like the much-celebrated landmark Hosier Lane.
The way I understood it, a Banksy was once painted over because of the council’s desire to keep a clean appearance to the city’s walls, when it wasn’t actually known that the aforementioned stencil work was in fact a piece by a street artist who is celebrated worldwide. In an effort to ensure that no such mistake was ever made again, it was decided stencil work would be left alone and all other works of public art wiped out from non-designated areas during cleaning periods.
Who knows if that’s really true, though, or if it’s one more urban myth that’s passed around in one of the most celebrated cities for public art that exists on the planet. Melbourne had a sort of mythical quality to me before I arrived, and its street art scene was a large part of that. As a photographer, daughter of an artist and avid fan of graffiti history and street art, I knew that my first trip to Australia would have to include a sort of pilgrimage to the city’s gritty laneways and alleys.
I could not have had my high expectations more thoroughly fulfilled. The best part of the experience for me was meeting young artists hanging out in laneways like Hosier, hoping to meet and work with older artists, as well as seeing just how diverse the art scene is in the city. Paste art, sculptures, tagging, graffiti murals and three-story-high collaborative painted works all find a home in Melbourne and the spirit of creativity that the city fosters certainly made me want to unpack my bags. Permanently.
Melbourne’s street art may no longer be a hidden gem of the city but some cliches are good enough not to miss under any circumstances. A street art tour would certainly fall into that category.