Long weekends, holiday romances…nothing good lasts forever. Sometimes however, the fact that it’s not supposed to last is what makes us love it even more, and this is definitely the case with Melbourne’s street art.
Whether you’re into murals, paste-ups, stickers or installations, Melbourne’s laneways offer an ever changing, never disappointing canvas for local and international artists to showcase their latest designs. Thinking of adding your own piece? While some councils still persist with a ‘no tolerance’ policy, the City of Melbourne claims to “recognise and celebrate street art as an important part of our vibrant urban culture” and Tourism Victoria isn’t afraid to feature it in their advertising campaigns for Melbourne. Be warned though – painting the lanes is still actually illegal, just so you know…
So where should you go?
The true appeal of laneways is the potential for discovery, and this goes for art, bars, restaurants and adventures – so my best advice is to embrace the unknown, turn random corners and don’t be afraid to wander. Here for a good time not a long time? There are of course the cliché laneways, featured in ads and touted in guidebooks – I’m looking at you Hosier Lane – but clichés are cliché for a reason right, so suck up your hipster pride, grab your camera and join the crowd. The constantly evolving nature of the scene means there’s always something new to discover and you just never know what you might find.
Hosier Lane/Rutledge Lane
Easily Melbourne’s best known and most accessible street art location (directly opposite Federation Square), Hosier Lane and the adjoining Rutledge Lane have been an attractive proposition for artists and tourists alike for many years. The high visibility ensures space is hotly contested, so expect large scale high quality pieces and satirical/political paste-ups. Drop by after dark for full appreciation of the recent neon additions by Dr Dosey – bonus points for photobombing a wedding or fashion shoot. Fancy cocktails at Misty, dinner at Movida (if you can get in), or the best Reuben sandwich this side of the Pacific at nearby Bowery to Williamsburg.
ACDC Lane and Duckboard Place
This giant piece by Fintan Magee is the newest addition to AC/DC Lane, a short walk up Little Collins St from Hosier Lane. Right at home with other large scale works from Steen Jones and eleven, this laneway also features some great paste ups by WRDSMTH and a large collection of stickers, not to mention the Angus Young and Bon Scott portraits that adorn the entrance. This end of town has you spoilt for choice in the food and drink department, and of course no visit to ACDC Lane would be complete without a drink at iconic rock club Cherry Bar. Pastuso at the end of the lane serves up Peruvian ceviche and pisco sours, or If you’ve got time to wait in line, Chin Chin never fails to impress. For something a little more intimate, head round the corner to Duckboard Place to Mary Fortune for cocktails and charcuterie under vintage lights.
Presgrave Place represents a small vein of subversion through Melbourne’s retail heart. Framed small scale works from some of our city’s best known and most prolific artists adorn the walls under a string of “pa-rat-troopers” in this small back alley off Howey Place. The small but perfectly formed Bar Americano offers standing room only espresso by day and world class cocktails by night. Shebeen on nearby Manchester Lane serves up delicious dishes and margaritas, and 100% of their profit goes to the developing world – be sure to check out who’s playing in the band room.
Laneway Rear Franklin St, entrance by 422 Queen St
Slightly outside the main CBD but definitely worth the effort (especially if you combine it with Blender Lane), this laneway near the Queen Victoria Market is one of Melbourne’s more recent additions to the must see laneway list with plenty of large scale murals, stencils and paste ups on offer. Vibrant large scale pieces appear and disappear on a nightly basis, the slightly more remote location possibly offering a more relaxed timeframe for works to be completed. Nearby Francis Café does a mean coffee mojito (or a regular coffee if that’s what you’re into, I won’t judge and neither will they) as well as amazing fresh food all sourced from the Market over the road.
Blender Lane off Franklin Street (between Elizabeth and Queen) should not be overlooked. If you’re lucky there may also be something cool going on at the Dark Horse Experiment, a projection gallery incorporated into Blender Studios (in Blender Lane, it’s not just a clever name). If you happen to be visiting in the Summer, be sure to stick around for the Blender Lane Artists Market for food, music, and of course original art, every Wednesday November through Feb. www.theblendermarket.com
Bonus offer: Want to get an insider view on the Melbourne scene? The legends behind Blender Studios artist collective now run Melbourne Street Art Tours, the only tour in Melbourne guided by practising street artists. They run CBD and Fitzroy tours including VIP access to their studio and gallery plus drinks with resident artists. www.melbournestreettours.com
Level up: Melbourne CBD laneways aren’t the only ones worth checking out while you are in town – for extra cred head to Yarra Place in South Melbourne (check out St Ali for an amazing coffee while you are there) and Leicester Street in Fitzroy (Industry Beans on nearby Rose St has all your alimentary needs covered and if you are there on a weekend, hit up the Rose Street Artists Market).
This article was originally published on AWOL.