Street Art Mecca Melbourne

MELBOURNE’S most famous home of street art, Hosier Lane, has not always been a hive of creative expression.

It’s lured the likes of legendary British artist Banksy and has featured everything from pleas for missing children, cheeky murals of Taylor Swift and solomn Anzac tributes.

But the street’s history goes back to our city’s early days, with Heritage Council Victoria listing No. 3-5 Hosier Lane as having “the potential to contain historical archaeological remains associated with the settlement and growth of early Melbourne”.

And its blue collar roots began with an organ manufacturer, a men’s clothing company’s warehouse and a costume manufacturer being housed in the laneway back in the 1920s.

Blender Studios founder and artist Adrian Doyle said the laneway was as old as the city.

“The lane was linked to Flinders Lane which, up until recently was full of clothes making factories,” Doyle said.

“It was a hard place to work with hot conditions rat infestations, it was a place where Melbourne’s working class worked long hours for little money.

“The laneway was used as access and delivery pick ups for the factories.”

The ever-changing view in Hosier Lane attracts artists and tourists alike.ANZAC street art in Hosier Lane ahead of the ANZAC Day March in 2015. Picture: Hamish Blair


Stencil graffiti in Hosier Lane.The street is constantly changing.

Doyle said Hosier Lane and connecting Rutledge Lane only had the odd tag in the 1980s and 90s.

But it become a laneway scene after the Citylights Project Inc set up light boxes on the side of the forum and centreplace, which created large openings, he said.

“Cared for and managed by the artists themselves, it was a well choreographed unsanctioned art space,” Doyle said.

“It was better when it was illegal as the cops still didn’t mind us making art, as long as the council didn’t mind.”

Public art featuring in Hosier Lane in 2015. Picture: NoDerivs Source: Flickr

The laneway, located between Flinders Lane and Flinders Street, gained its artistic street cred in the 1990s after it was featured in an Asian soap opera.

Doyle said it was “a place for street art and street art interventions” and the public left it alone.

It was voted best free tourist attraction by Lonely Planet before it went “out of control”.

Hosier Lane runs between Flinders Lane (seen here in the 1950s) and Flinders St.Hosier Lane in 1987, after an explosion in a nearby building.

The art community was horrified when British artist Banksy’s stencil art of a rat wearing a parachute was painted over in Hosier Lane in 2010, on Melbourne council’s orders to clean up.

Doyle said once the Banksy original was gone, fake works cropped up throughout the laneway.

The colourful entrance to Hosier Lane. Picture: Nanette WhiteHosier Lane is popular with tourists. Picture: Josie Hayden

Adrian Doyle says Hosier Lane has lost its way. Picture: Josie Hayden

The laneway was wiped clean in 2013 as part of a six-day makeover to rejuvenate the outdoor canvass and its style.

It was the first time the laneway had been a blank canvass since it rose to fame in the 1990s.

Artist Lush caused a social media storm last year after painting a Taylor Swift memorial in the famous laneway — but she was not dead.

Taylor Swift mural was painted over in Hosier Lane. Picture: Norm Oorloff

The laneway has even been used to bring community attention and awareness to missing people.

Artists Ashley Goudie and Jonny Deel painted a mural of missing Boronia teen Bung Sriboon for the Missing Persons Advocacy Network’s campaign.

Artists Ashley Goudie & Jonny Deel painted the mural of Bung Sriboon. Picture: Yuri Kouzmin

But the list of artists doesn’t end there with Blek le rat, Swoon, Dface, HaHa, Anthony Lister, Rone, James Reka, Neck Face, el Seed, Lush and Sofles some of the major artists to show their work in the lane.

Melbourne artist Lushsux has created a tribute to Lionel Messi in Hosier Lane in celebration of his arrival in Melbourne. Source: Supplied

Melbourne Football Club’s logo was wanted in the lane in 2015. Picture: Mark DadswellWWE Raw Superstar Sasha Banks in Hosier Lane. Picture: David Caird

Doyle said Adnates’portrait of the young Aboriginal boy in the lane was important “as it brought craft to the game” while Doyle’s controversial The Empty Nursery Blue on Rutledge Lane, which connects to west of Hosier Lane, divided the city.

Artist Adrian Doyle in Rutledge Lane which he painted blue in 2013.

But Doyle says good art doesn’t last in the laneway anymore.

“Now it's a shadow of its former self with the good art lasting only hours before some suburban kid trashes it,” Doyle said.

Doyle said the general rule of etiquette to covering over a work was “Don’t go over what you can’t burn”, meaning if you can’t do better — don’t cover it.

The famous laneway snapped in 2011. Picture: NoDerivs via Flickr

It’s the laneway’s history, its link to Federation Square and the CBD that Doyle loves.

“I also like that its raw ... you never know what you are going to see down there,” Doyle said.

“Hosier lane is an important part of Australian urban culture and there needs to be some kind of structure and program to rejuvenate the lane.

“Melbourne’s laneways are the cultural veins of city that is fast becoming one of the greatest creative cities in the world.”

Many groups including; Blender Studios, Melbourne street art blog Land of Sunshine, online underground art magazine Invurt even community association Hosier Inc, are working to protect the laneway.