When you think of Australia, images of fuzzy koalas and bounding kangaroos are sure to top the list for the first-time visitor. But Australia has much more to offer than just its unique wildlife. Lucky for me, Oz also has a pretty spectacular street art culture, which gave me a glimpse of yet another layer of this beautiful country, one often over-looked by the casual tourist.
If you are keen to see heaps of beautiful urban art by some of the world's most renowned artists while enjoying some delicious food and culture, Melbourne is a must-stop destination on your "Down Under" street art adventure.
Where to Go?
There are several different areas of the city where you will find some incredible art on the streets, and it really comes down to preference when choosing where to base yourself. I stayed in a no-frills hotel on Brunswick in the Fitzroy neighborhood, which was ideal for its proximity to some awesome restaurants and more art than you will know what to do with. Spending the day wandering through the art-filled streets of the neighborhood will be a worthwhile starting point, but be sure to plan your route ahead of time to make the most of it. I used the Street Art Cities app to give me some insider information to some of the best works around Melbourne, which proved especially worthwhile in Fitzroy.
To start the day out right, you'd do well to fuel up. I would recommend Slowpoke for breakfast. And after a full day of art hunting, treat yourself to a few cocktails or dinner at Cutler & Co. You can't go wrong with these two.
Since I know you aren't reading this for the food, let's get to the art!
There are some amazingly-talented artists to be found in Melbourne. For me, Matt Adnate was the huge draw here in "Burn City", with works to be found smattered across the city, looming larger than life. The piercing eyes of his photorealistic images have always captivated me and the varied subject matter continues to intrigue. Many of those works can be easily spotted in Fitzroy, while others are Downtown. But even if you see just one of them, it is sure to make your trip.
In addition to Adnate, there are many other artists whose work alone would be worth a visit to this Victorian city. Rone, Smug, Dvate, Cam Scale,Stine Hvid, Mike Makatronand Sofles are but a few. You truly never know whose work you will come across while cruising through the streets here. And you most definitely will not be disappointed.
Here are some of my favorites I came across while on walkabout.
Some of the best places to see a ton of work in a small space are in Melbourne's downtown alleys (or "laneways"). Colorful passageways filled to the hilt with vibrant imagery abound in the CBD.
A few worth checking out include the city's most famous, Hosier Lane, as well as the lesser-known but equally-interesting AC/DC Lane and Higson Lane. (There are impressive works in Little Bourke and Little Collins Streets as well.)
Some of these laneways play host to large murals by the likes of Adnate and Dvate, while others showcase pasteups galore or layers upon layers of graffiti. You can easily fall into the rabbit hole as you get lost in the cacophony of color on these urban walls. So be careful. You've been warned. And I would recommend hunting by day. (There's nothing scarier than running into one of the haunting works of Lister in a dark alley.)
Winding your way through the alleys of Melbourne will reap many rewards. Keep your eyes peeled, though. There are often hidden pieces in between the bricks and behind the pipes . And don't forget to look up! You may even spot a Banksy or two, if you're clever.
Regardless of how much time you have to spend in the "City by the Bay", you are in for a real treat! And if you want to learn more about Melbourne and its vibrant urban art scene, check out the book Burn City: Melbourne's Painted Streets by Lou Chamberlin. I had the pleasure of being given the grand tour by her a couple days, and aside from being a lovely human being, she definitely knows (and loves) her Melbourne.