I’ve been obsessed with street art for some time now.
There’s something about the bold colors and big curves that satisfy the senses, the wild strokes that excite the brain’s neurons. It is a freedom of expression, without a concrete set of rules, yet there is also precision and planning in creating the art.
Perhaps what makes street art even more poetic is that it is temporary. A piece of art can be there one day but gone the next; it can be replaced by another restless soul, desperate to make a statement for those will see, and listen.
Melbourne is one of the street art capitals in the world. It is something the city is proud of, and has been used in tourism campaigns to capture Melbourne’s urban culture.
Although street art is a controversial topic, government officials have taken measures to contribute to the culture. The government differentiates between graffiti or tagging – which is when people write their graffiti names – and street art, which is defined as larger, more artistic pieces such as murals, and have been commissioned by the government itself.
After I picked up a brochure on Melbourne’s laneways for street art, it became a personal goal to visit every one mentioned in the guide. Here is my list of the top places to visit for street art.
1. Hosier and Rutledge Lane
Hosier Lane is the undisputed holy grail of all Melbourne Street Art. The iconic laneway is known for the high-caliber work brought to its cobbled path, as well as the political nature of its art.
Just around the corner is Rutledge Lane. In 2013, controversial street artist Adrian Doyle painted the entire Rutledge Lane in blue. This was done through RMIT, a university in Melbourne, and the City of Melbourne Council funding.
Street artists weren’t happy with what is perhaps a defamation, but the Lord Mayor said he hoped it would attract new work of higher value to the area. Doyle said it shows how “a color in its pure form can be street art or graffiti.”
When I visited Rutledge, it wasn’t obvious that it had been painted blue. The laneway is an explosion of color, styles, and characters four stories high, and dare I say even more impressive than Hosier. The faded blue overlay, I’d argue, unites the walls and brings a sense of cohesion to the street not present in others.
2. AC/DC Lane
Originally called Corporation Lane, AC/DC Lane was renamed in 2004 as a tribute to – you guessed it – Australian rock band AC/DC, which has deep ties to the city and are seen as cultural ambassadors for Australia. The street art is coated with a striking shade of violet, and is located in the city’s bar and rock district.
3. Croft Alley and Paynes Place
Croft Alley and Paynes Place require a little digging to discover. They laneways are tucked behind a winding Chinatown alley, and can be disguised as some old, beaten path if you don’t venture and look further. When you turn a few corners, though, it’s one straight long alley full of colorful street art.
4. Union Lane
Union Lane is located right smack dab in Melbourne’s shopping district, but because it’s surrounded by so much chaos and so many crowds, it’s very easy to miss. I walked by this lane three or four times before realizing it was there. If you’re not looking for it, you can be distracted by the bright lights of stores (and this one massive two-story H&M), but it is well worth walking down.
Although not technically a laneway, Fitzroy is a Melbourne suburb decorated with sporadic bursts of street art and some unexpectedly elaborate murals. It’s a hip, sophisticated neighborhood with a lot of interesting stores to see, and I’d recommend wandering around and seeing what you can find.
Where are your favorite laneways for street art?
One of my Melbourne street art Instas was recently featured on The Contented Traveller. Check out the link to discover photos of street art around the world!