Melbourne, situated within the state of Victoria, Australia is a renown global leader in the provision of street art, previously referred to as graffiti art. Melbourne’s inner city street art, revered city laneways and transit corridors have become a major tourist attraction.
Melbourne Street Art Source: Facebook.com
Street art includes; murals, stencils, paste ups and permanent artistic installations, which are displayed on endorsed outside building walls, laneways, transport corridor walls and within commercial building wall precincts. The creative infused activity of street art is becoming an increasingly popular mode of free expression, amongst the Melbourne urban cultural ethos.
Melbourne Street Art – Makatron and Giraffiti . Source: Facebook.com
Conversely, graffiti and tagging is an illegal practice of defacing public and private property and other street artists work. Tagging involves the writing of an individuals’ pseudo identity or ‘tag’ or a message illicitly sprayed on a wall. Law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system consider graffiti and tagging to be a subversive act of vandalism.
Melbourne Graffiti Source: Facebook.com
The act of displaying messages in public places stems from activities engaged within ancient times dating back to the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece. The word ‘graffiti’ originated from the Italian word “graphicar”, which translates “to scratch”.
Art Source: Google images Melbourne Street Art Source: Facebook.com
Australian Aboriginal Ancient Cave
Graffiti practices are believed to have been influenced by the New York Subway graffiti ethos, which arose during the revolutionary 1968 period of student and political protests. The cultural ethos of graffiti became more prominent in the 1970’s and 1980’s. However graffiti was formerly associated with anti-establishment, subversive cyber punk cultures.
New York Subway graffiti train – Source: Wikipedia.org New York Subway Art Source: Google images
Street and graffiti art was thought to be traditionally the domain of dissidents and disaffected youth from low socio-economic groups. Today street artists originate from a myriad of social class structures, including; both male and females, artists, student artists, the homeless, middle and upper class, tertiary educated individuals, who practice their art as hobbyist graffer’s .
Melbourne Street Art Sources: Facebook.com
Typically street art has been utilised as a vehicle for public expressionism. It has been noted that the flourishing of creativity and freedom of expression verbalised through street art, draws dichotomic correlations to global cities where citizens reside and have experienced some form of oppression and repression of free speech.
Melbourne Street Art
Source: Facebook.com and Phoenix T-Squat Source: Facebook.com
The ‘outsiders’ vanguard culture of street art trumps the phony mass consumerism driven and commercial advertising culture, which is complicit in capitalism. Street artists display their works in public places along metro transport lines and in well tread public thoroughfares, in order to maximise the eyeballs of its viewers, in much the same fashion as advertisers strategically display their billboards across city landscapes.
Melbourne Street Art Sources: Facebook
The main point of difference being that advertisers seek to sell commercial products and services as well as political propaganda. Whereas street artists aim to influence positive change through thought provoking social and political ideologies and ascetically pleasing imagery.
Melbourne Street Art Source: Facebook.com
Street art promotes freedom of expression to people whose voice is traditionally not represented in the political corridors of power, within corporate boardrooms and the mainstream media. Street art’s social driver is one that denotes creative expression with artistic visual communications often depicting pertinent political messages contained within their representation.
Melbourne Street Art Source: Google images
Economic prosperity is almost invariably a by-product of the creative and cultural capital derived through thriving artistic communities that permit street art. Many of Melbourne’s inner city suburbs have been a hydra hub of creative activity and as such have seen street art proliferate within their regions. The resulting outcome making these communities attractive to wealthier demographics, who at later stages purchase local real estate and increase the property values and commercial prosperity of the area.
Melbourne Street Art Source: Google
Melbourne’s street and graffiti art ethos emerged during the 1980’s, becoming a burgeoning street art form within Melbourne city’s laneways, business, retail and café precincts. Street art flowed during Victoria’s ‘Dark Days of Terror’, from 2006 to 2010. This dark period followed the ‘Dark Reign of Terror’, which began in Victoria in January 2003.
This time reflected a rapid decline in society’s shared values, with the state infiltrated by organised crime groups and outlaw bikie gangs. The forces of darkness converged on Victoria releasing terror on its citizens, which reflected a marked increase in; crime, rape, murder, torture, fraud, theft, cyber-crime and large scale corruption within the commercial and government sectors.
Melbourne Street Art (2008) Source: wikipedia.org
Former Premier John Brumby’s reign of power during 2007 to late 2010 was allegedly marred by police corruption, questionable political spending, government scandals, mass human rights abuses, systematic torture of vulnerable citizens and iterative civil liberties breaches. This dark period in Victoria’s history left the Victorian economy near bankrupt and resulted in the economic collapse of many businesses, mass unemployment, entrenched poverty and homelessness, in addition to immense suffering of the most disadvantaged citizens of the state. Interestingly, Brumby was strongly opposed to the practice and promotion of street and graffiti art.
Melbourne Street Art (2004) –Meek
The fear and repression during Victoria’s ‘Dark Days of Terror’ was reflected in the creative expression of the public displays of unique and colourful street art widely depicted throughout Melbourne’s central business districts.
Melbourne Street Art (Social Issues: Homeless man) 2008, Source: Wikipedia.org
This street art phenomenon quickly spread to Melbourne’s inner and outer suburbs. Many of Melbourne’s local councils have adopted the street art trend and commissioned and sponsored local street artists work, providing public walls and paint materials for local artists and youth to promote their artistic visions.
Melbourne Street Art Sources: City of Melbourne and Facebook
Current Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and the City of Melbourne warmly encourages and promotes legal street art. Likewise the current Premier and Minister for the Arts – Premier Ted Baillieu is also supportive of all forms of artistic expression, including street art.
Melbourne Street Art Source: Google images
Other Australian cities such as Sydney and Brisbane have recently developed initiatives to cultivate the development of “cool factor” opening open air, urbane galleries showcasing street art, murals and graffiti in concert with their creative communities. The Sydney City Council has recently stated that “the community’s “innovation”, “creativity” and “vibrancy”… was enhanced through such programs, cementing the city’s identity and social cohesion”.
Sydney Street Art – Days One
During 2012 the prestigious neo-classical Grande Palais Museum in Paris welcomed the street art of “outsiders” by hosting an exhibition. Likewise in 2006 The Brooklyn Museum displayed graffiti art from many of New York’s famous street artists. These show’s mainstream acceptance is seen by many people in the art world as recognising the creative and cultural value of street art and further legitimising the art forms contemporary practice.
Grande Palais Museum, Paris. Street Art Exhibition (2012) Source: http://www.artdaily.org
Executive director and artist of the Williamsburg Art and Historic Center, Terrance Lindall when asked about graffiti in 2006 said; “Graffiti is revolutionary, in my opinion”, he says, “and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls, it’s free.
Libyan Street Art (2012) Source: Slideshare.net
There are strong parallels between the amazing street and graffiti art found today in Sao Paolo, Brasil and the New York Subway ethos found in the 1970’s and 1980’s. With Brazil’s mass unemployment and entrenched poverty, street and graffiti artists visually depict the disenfranchised elements of society and showcase their economic struggles.
Brazil Street Art Source: and Google images
Brazil Street Art – Ignoto Source: http://www.fatcap.com
Graffiti art has also recently been emerging in oppressed countries such as Russia, Iran, Israel, Libya and The United Arab Emirates. During the Libyan uprising, the local people consistently voiced their hopes and fears through public displays of graffiti and street art, eventually overthrowing their repressive dictator Muammar Gaddafi, resulting in his death and the collapse of his 34 year regime.
Libyan Street Art (2011) Source: Slideshare.net Broadway Street Art – Russian Revolution Source: Google images
Russia also has its share of powerful and witty avant-garde street artists, the most visually compelling being P183. His tag is a reference to a New York subway artist of the 1970’s – TAKI 183. His mural style works depict a police state with Orwellian influences. Kremlin strongman and Russian President Vladimir Putin is vigilant in ordering teams of his troopers to paint over politically inspired street art, in attempts to quell the rapidly growing Russian revolution, which seeks freedom from persecution, repression, state sponsored theft, fraud, torture and human rights abuses.
P183 ~ Russian – Moscow Mural Street Art and Unknown Russian Street Art and Russian Street Action Art : Google
Sources: http://www.drivebyplanet.com/2012/02/p183-russian-graffiti-artist-draws.html and Google images
Street art has always acted as a popular voice of the people during political struggles in the cities like; New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Berlin, Sao Paolo, Moscow and throughout South Africa.
Berlin Street Art
Source: Wikipedia.org and Google images
Melbourne’s street artists have been pioneers in the avant-garde movement. Collectively through their public artworks, teamed with famous international visiting street artists such as Banksy, and Parisian Blek le Rat they have challenged the status quo enabling collective reform.
Melbourne Street Art Banksy (2004) Little Diver and Rat stencil
Avant-garde revolutionary, street artist – Banksy’s street art works at times utilize rats and monkeys as motifs and are heavily imbued with strong satirical social and political points, which tends to invite social commentary around his ideological visual messages. Through the popular commodification of Bansky’s works have seen him earn significant sums of money for his crafts.
Melbourne Street Art Sources: City of Melbourne. Urban Cake Lady – Melbourne Source: Facebook.com
Saint Simonian and colleague Olinde Rodrigues famously stated during the Enlightenment period in 1825; that “the power of the arts is indeed the most immediate and fastest way” to usher in a new era of economic, political and social reform.
Melbourne Street Art Sources: Google images and Facebook
Periods of revolutionary change through previous centuries have been mobilized by artists of various persuasions who through practicing their art affected change and ushered in new eras of peace and corresponding prosperity.
Viva la Revolution!
Melbourne Street Art Sources: Facebook and Google images
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Grant, A, 1983, “North Devon Pottery: The Seventeenth Century”. University of Exeter Press,
Smith,B, Smith T,and Heathcote C, 2000, “Australian Painting 1788–2000, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2001, chapter 17. See also Christopher Heathcote, Discovering Graffiti, Art Monthly Australia (Canberra)
Calinescu, Matei (1987). The Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism. Duke University Press.
Manco, T, 2005, Lost Art & Caleb Neelon, Graffiti Brazil. London: Thames and Hudson
Stowers, G, 1997, “Graffiti Art: An Essay Concerning The Recognition of Some Forms of Graffiti As Art”, Miami, http://www.hiphop-network.com/articles/graffitiarticles/graffitiart.asp
Sydney City Council, 2012, “Public Art polic , strategy and guidelines”, http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/cityart/about/PublicArtPolicyStrategyGuidelines.asp
The City of Melbourne, 2012, ‘Street art – City of Melbourne’, http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ForResidents/StreetCleaningandGraffiti/GraffitiStreetArt/Pages/Whatisstreetart.aspx
Topsfield, Jewel (2008). “Brumby slams Tourism Victoria over graffiti promotion”, The Age.
“Writing on the Wall”. Time Out New York Kids. 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-11-13. http://web.archive.org/web/20061113004456/http://www.tonykids.com/features/13/k13.ft.writing.html.
- Spotlight on Melbourne’s Street Art – pt.2 (loveantoinette.com)
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Wow, Amazing street art, I never knew Melbourne had such creative talent. I will go on a treasure hunt this weekend and take some pics. thanks for sharing your insights! Kaz x
Hi Kaz, Great to hear you enjoyed the blog. There is a treasure trove of awesome street art hidden all over Melbourne. The search will keep you busy for many weekends to come. Happy street art hunting. Cheers, Sky
Pingback: At What Point Does it Transition from Graffiti to Time-capsule? | Improbable Frontiers·
Howdy Improbable Frontiers,
Thanks for your link and musings on graffiti tags around the good old USA. Interesting to see the classical “Kilroy was here” tags of days gone by.
Its amazing that popular American expressions that originated from the WW2 military serviceman have become a popularized meme and are still immortalized across the American landscape for future generations to see.
I find it hilarious that Hitler and Stalin found “Kilroy was here” tags within their war precincts in the 1930’s and 40’s, causing concern and misinterpretation that Kilroy was allegedly a high level spy.
I appreciate your alternative viewpoints.
Keep up the eclectic postings.
Great collection of street art. I love the Ganesha the most. This post makes me want to go exploring for some.
I am glad that you enjoyed the collection I put together. Yes the Ganesh art work is very colorful and full of vibrancy!
There is literally so much amazing street art in Melbourne and naturally many other creative cities around the world, that it is difficult to choose whose work to showcase.
A few of my colleagues and some eager university students some years back put together a mobile phone app to help source great sites to visit awesome street art around Melbourne. (see options below)
There are also some great websites in addition to Facebook that will help you navigate Melbourne city and burbs to check out innovative social messaging.
Street art websites, artist info, Melbourne street art tours and mobile apps;
Fantastic post. I have always been fascinated with this sort of expression. One thing that has always been in the back of my mind is; These people are so talented, why wouldn’t they do it legitimately and make money off it?
The answer I suspect is nuanced and complicated, and different in many cases – but I like to believe that a lot of it comes back to wanting to share it with the masses and get their message out there. Rebel against the system.
It’s quite noble in a way. I love it.
Thanks for your comments. Yes street art is in essence an act of nobility. I believe many street artists create their works in an effort to be seen and in the process create varied representations of beauty to share with their local communities. I believe the main driving forces behind the creation of street art is freedom of expression and the utilization of creative expression. Some street artists have successfully transitioned to commodify their street art works after periods of time promoting their aesthetic political and social commentary to the public. Many famous street artists display their works in recent years in contemporary art galleries and are often commissioned to produce works for commercial entities, private collectors and occasional create murals for government departments. There is the additional royalties that artists such as Banksy receive through the representations of their artworks being recreate don coffee mugs, paintings, t-shirts and the like.
Amazing street art. The green elephant and girrafe art are my favourite pieces. Do you know how to contact the artists? Is there a database the public can use to commission street art from their favourite artists represented?
That is a good question.
I will have to research and update this contact information at a later stage.
I did recall hearing that a Melbourne based agent operating from a Facebook fan page was attempting to engage and represent street artists.
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