To say that Melbourne’s street art culture is thriving is an understatement – walk its famous laneways and you are greeted with a colourful cacophony of art. You’ll probably find it harder NOT to come across amazing street art in Melbourne.
I’ve visited various cities for their street art like Penang, Hongkong and Lagos, and taken street art tours in London and Lisbon…(There’s a full list of my street art guides here) but there’s something about Melbourne’s scene that feels a little different from these. It feels less curated – there are the commissioned murals and large-scale art works, but these sit amidst a whole load of graffiti tags and amateur scribbling, which conveys a sense that the community actively embraces the form and its artists no matter what level they are.
The works here also tend to be more temporal and ever-changing – which is the true nature of street art – to me a sign of the growth of the scene as the artists keep pushing themselves to practice more and create better.
One of the first things I booked on this trip was the Melbourne Street Art Tours run by the folk at Blender Studios, most of whom are also artists themselves. I really enjoyed the walk and having our awesome guide Junky Projects explain the history and context of the areas as well as tell us about the artists. Also, you end the tour at their amazing studio space which is a great chance to chat with any of their artists who happen to be in that day.
A$69 for a 3-hour tour is the most I’ve paid for any street art / walking tour so far and may be a bit steep if you are on a budget, but other popular tours in Melbourne are around that sort of price range, and it goes to supporting the studio, which for me is money well spent for a good informative tour.
There is SO much to see – I spent a long time trying to figure out how best to talk about it, so I thought I’d show you some of my favourite pieces and areas rather than try to show you everything because that would be several posts long. (Google Map right at the bottom of the post)
So onward as we check out the street art in Melbourne:
HOSIER LANE + RUTLEDGE LANE
The tour starts at Federation Square, which is directly opposite the most well known street art lane in Melbourne – Hosier Lane is the laneway that connects Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, with Rutledge Lane as a smaller side lane off Hosier.
Junky showed us a different vantage point of Rutledge Lane – we took the lift of the neighbouring car park up four floors for a bird’s eye view, and it was a nice way to have a closer look at some of the works that were higher up on the walls. Street art and graffiti is a game of reach – stuff within easy access gets covered more quickly than somewhere that requires a ladder or harness!
What I also appreciated about the tour was Junky pointing out things beyond your tags and large-scale artwork as forms of street art – he’s a bit of a sculptor himself using recycled materials for his art, but there were lots of other interesting bits and bobs that he pointed out that I probably would have just glossed over.
ACDC LANE + DUCKBOARD PLACE
Further down off Flinders Lane are another two oddly named lane ways connected in a U-shape – AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place.
Named for the 80s rock band AC/DC (who I never realized were Australian), this lane and the art work here are tributes to their legacy. One almost expects to hear some hard-rocking music in the background just from looking at the art, and you might if you come at night when Cherry Bar is open, a bar infamous for turning Lady Gaga away to honour their earlier commitment to a local band.
AC/DC Lane connects to Duckboard Place, and its claim to fame is a doorway where you can find the last remaining Banksy works in this city – two stenciled rats on either side of a blue doorway. It is a minor miracle that no one’s painted over it yet, but perhaps that is some street artist code. Some of the Banksy works that I saw in London were covered with perspex for protection, though that didn’t do much against really persistent vandals!
This dead end alley off Little Bourke Street in Chinatown looks a bit dodgy to wander down, but it’s one of those laneways which hides cool little FnB, including the Croft Institute right at the end of the alleyway which once used to be a mental institution, but is a pretty cool bar with novelty syringe shots these days!
Next to the Emporium Mall between Londsale and Little Bourke Street is a lane filled with street art and graffiti
Just opposite Caledonian Lane is another connecting laneway full of graffiti and street art, some of which are of pretty impressive size
Just off Little Collins Street close to the Melbourne GPO (General Post Office) Laneway, a very narrow laneway emblazoned with street art
The tour ends at Blender Lane off Franklin Street, which is also where Blender Studios is located, and you definitely know youare in the right place because the floors, walls and all available parts of the laneway are covered with art, absolutely amazing place
BRUNSWICK STREET / FITZROY STREET
This hipster stretch just outside the main central business district area is a hotbed for street art – I walked down Fitzroy Street to Rose Street for the weekend Rose Street Market and it took longer than I estimated because I kept getting distracted by the amazing works I saw!
As always, handy dandy google map for you: