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Phenomenon of Street Art

By Adrian Doyle

Originally published: July 26th 2018

It is clear that street art has become an important part of the Melbourne cultural milieu with urban art appearing throughout the city in a variety of contexts.

You can find it in advertisements, on trams, in shops, on tee shirts and of course on the walls and laneways. It has appeared at the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria and has been integrated into many parts of contemporary life in Melbourne and across the world.

The urban art phenomenon in Australia has caused an “alteration” in perception for artists and artwork and, in turn, for audiences. Street art has the ability to by-pass the gallery creating a new model in the presentation of art.

The public nature of urban art captured the imagination of the general public – turning street artists into household names. The public has embraced urban art in a way it has never embraced fine art.

The public nature of urban art meant that anybody could enjoy the art and become familiar with the different artists. This has allowed street art and street artists a fame that is close to rock stardom, travelling the world doing commissions and street art festivals … and being paid very big money. My parents were wrong. Crime does pay!

This brings me to Hosier Lane. With so many amazing artists created in Melbourne why is Hosier Lane so bad? Melbourne is, and has always been, one of the best cities in the world for street art.

This is partly because much of the movement developed here in Melbourne. And the city is just built for it, with all its awesome lanes. But it is getting harder to find the good art.

We artists, have had to go deeper underground and use laneways out of the way – and where the art is less likely to be trashed by adverts. Part of the reason Hosier has become so bad is because of all the tourists painting their names.

This week alone, I have been contacted to do two wedding proposals, a logo for an international insurance company and some other advert. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for selling out, but it has to be done with decorum and the credibility of anonymity.

However, what I don’t understand is why people would want to go to the world’s most famous street art lane and then just wreck the good art with art-vertising projects that are self-serving. You can even do a workshop through some booking website to leave you mark on Hosier.

Imagine if someone went to the NGV with a can of export spray-paint, it would be considered cultural terrorism. I remember when someone slashed Serrano’s Piss Christ, it was international news. But just last week the public Keith Herring artwork in Collingwood was slashed and it didn’t even make the paper.

We seem to have one standard for art in a gallery and another standard for art in the streets. I am not sure if Hosier can ever be fixed but it will need a shift in cultural perspectives and commitment from both the community, the artists and the council. Street art has helped transform this city into the creative hub that it has become so let’s give it some respect …


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