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A stencil of iconic Australian criketer Merv Hughes, 2008

Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia, has gained international notoriety for its diverse range of street art and associated subcultures. Throughout the 1970s and 80s much of the city's disaffected youth were influenced by the graffiti of New York which subsequently became popular in inner city suburbs and along suburban railway and tram lines. After the turn of the century when stencil art first became prominent in the UK, Melbourne was one of, perhaps the first, major city outside of the UK that embraced this art form, causing a vast increase in public awareness of the concept of street art.[1][2]

Around the turn of the 21st century, within the space of 3 to 4 years, many other forms of street art began to appear in Melbourne including; stencil art, woodblocking, sticker art, poster art, wheatpasting, graphs, various forms of street installations and reverse graffiti. Tags are becoming increasingly less popular as the public consciousness and local councils alike, view street art as an art form and tagging as vandalism. A strong sense of community ownership and DIY ethic exists amongst street artists in Melbourne, who endeavour for the progression of society through awareness created in part by their work.[3]

Many galleries in the central business district are now starting to exhibit stencil art and photos of stencil art, such as City Lights Gallery & Until Never Gallery. Melbourne's train lines are the main locations for graphs and tagging. Hoiser Lane is Melbourne's most famous laneway for street art with many visitors from around the world who have left their mark.[4] Prominent international street artists such as Banksy (UK), Fafi (France) and Logan Hicks,[5] have contributed work to Melbourne's streets along with many other visitors from all over the world, most prominently; Germany, Canada, USA, the UK and New Zealand.[6]

The first stencil festival in the world was held in Melbourne in 2004, in which the work of many major international street artists were exhibited.[7]



Ceramic street art on the corner of a brick building in Fitzroy, 2008

While there are small areas all over Greater Melbourne where various forms of street art can be seen, the primary areas in which street art is most dense include, in alphabetical order;[citation needed]

Public and government responses

Much of the views of Melbourne's general population and the actions of state government and many local councils stem from a lack of education about the differences between concepts such as vandalism, graffiti, tagging and street art, and many tend to lump them all under one misinterpreted name, most often "vandalism" and "graffiti".[citation needed] This creates much confusion among the prominently indifferent general public, invariably polarising public opinion on street art.[8] Some local councils have accepted street art and even made efforts to preserve it. In early 2008 a perspex screen was installed to prevent a Banksy stencil art piece from being destroyed, however in December 2008 silver paint was poured behind the protective screen and tagged with the words "Banksy woz ere".[9]

Local terminology and definitions[10]

  • Street Art or Post-Graffiti - used by street artists to distinguish their art from graffiti or vandalism.
  • Taggers - Those who place quick graffiti "tags" in discriminate places (trains, trucks, etc) or cause damage in the process (like scratching of internal fittings in trains)
  • Graphers or Writers - Those who display their tag in an artful manner, like with a mural, displaying a high level of skill.
  • Graffiti - Rarely used today except by those uneducated in street art culture, particularly in the media. Mostly used in a historic sense in reference to graffiti of the 1970s and 80's.


She's Only Dancing by Vexta (left), and work by PETS (right), in Hosier Lane, 2007
  • Empty Shows - illegal exhibitions held in derelict buildings since circa 2000.[11]
  • Stencil Festival - The first stencil art festival in the world was held in Melbourne in 2004. It is currently in its 5th year.[12]
  • Street Video Projection Event - A video projection events were held in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy in mid 2008.

Melbourne Stencil Festival

The Melbourne Stencil Festival is Australia's premier celebration of international street and stencil art. Since its inauguration in 2004 the festival has become an annual event, touring regional Victoria and other locations within Australia. The festival is held for 10 days each year, involving exhibitions, live demonstrations, artist talks, panel discussions, workshops, master classes and street art related films to the general public. It features works by emerging and established artists from both Australia and around the world.[13]

Since its inception, the Stencil Festival has featured some 800 works by over 150 artists, many of whom are experiencing their first major art exhibition, finding it difficult to be exhibited in major commercial galleries reluctant to display emerging art forms. The first Melbourne Stencil Festival was held in a former sewing factory in North Melbourne in 2004. The 3 day exhibition attracted audience numbers far beyond expectation.[14]

  • 2004 - Inaugural Festival held over 3 days in a warehouse in North Melbourne.
  • 2005 - Featured a ten-day exhibition at the refurbished Meat Market art complex. The festival was supported by the City of Melbourne and saw more than 700 visitors on the opening night.
  • 2006 - The festival moved to Fitzroy, a major location of street art in Melbourne, and was held at the Rose St Artists Market. For the first time the 4-day event was also held in Sydney. It received reviews in major mainstream media in both Melbourne and Sydney.
  • 2007 - Featured a total of 75 artists from 12 countries with more than 300 works. The Melbourne event alone was attended by more than 4,000 visitors with 500 people on the opening night alone. It also attracted a wide range of media coverage including daily newspapers, community radio and street press.
  • 2009 - The Melbourne Stencil Festival 2009 ran between September 25th and October 4th 2009.[15]

Notable Melbourne street artists[16]

Poster art by HAPPY, Fitzroy, 2008
  • Civilian - since 2001
  • DEST
  • Dlux - since 1998, moved to Melbourne from Adelaide
  • Dominic Allen
  • FERS (aka Nails)
  • FLIQ (BurnCrew)
  • Ghostpatrol - moved to Melbourne from Hobart, also exhibits commercially. Collaborates with Miso
  • HAHA - since 2000
  • James Dodd
  • KAB 101
  • KANO
  • MEEK - since 2003
  • Miso - lifesize, hand drawn paste up work.
  • Miles Allinson
  • Nails
  • Phibs (Everfresh)
  • PRISM - since 2001, founded the Stencil Revolution which has over 15,000 registered members
  • PSALM - since 1999
  • REKA
  • Rone - since 2002, moved to Melbourne from Geelong
  • SHUT UP AND SHOP - since 1991
  • Sixten - since 2000, moved to Melbourne from Sweden
  • SNOG
  • SYNC (Everfresh) - also known as Syn, moved to Melbourne from Adelaide
  • Tai Snaith
  • VEXTA - since 2003, moved to Melbourne from Sydney

Other media

  • RASH (2005) - Feature length documentary film which explores the cultural value of Melbourne street art and graffiti.
  • Not Quite Art (2007) - ABC TV series, episode 101 explored Melbourne's street art and DIY culture.
  • JISOE (2007) - documentary film about the culture of graphers and street artists in Melbourne.
  • Artscape, Episode 24 February 2009, ABC TV - Ghostpatrol & Miso featured.


See also



External links


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