Street Art in Melbourne

In 2019, before the pandemic hit, I was lucky enough to return to Melbourne, Australia, one of my favourite cities. The following article appeared in Oberoi magazine (unfortunately, with half of the final sentence cut off by the printers!)

Melbourne has a long history of loving art. The first art gallery in Australia was opened here, in 1861, and the city has always had a reputation for being “arty”. Today, alongside all the official galleries, tourists and locals are eager to witness an ever-evolving art – the art of the streets. It changes, sometimes, daily. 

A street artist working in Melbourne, Australia
A street artist working in Melbourne, Australia

The most famous street to visit is Hosier Lane (not far from Flinders Street station), where you’ll witness street artists at work, blithely ignoring all the tourists and clatter and comings and goings all around them, and working just as anyone else would do at their day job. This is because, in Melbourne, street art is now definitely art, not graffiti, and in these streets, it’s not only permitted, but actively encouraged. Gone are the days when street artists had to work furtively, under cover of darkness, risking arrest for their art. Now it’s mainstream, and even the local Melbourne authorities agree that it’s good for artistic expression – and the tourist dollar! 

There are art-covered streets (with varying degrees of skill) all over the city. In the CBD (Central Business District) these include Strachan Lane, Rutledge Lane, Beaney Lane, Snider Lane, Rankins Lane, Caledonian Lane, Presgrave Place, Union Lane, Drewery Lane and Duckboard Place. But for fans of rock and heavy metal, there is only one place to get to: AC/DC Lane. Yes it is actually named after the Australian rock band. Until 2004, it was the much-more conservative Corporation Lane, but that didn’t attract anything like as many pilgrims seeking their heroes as AC/DC Lane does. Here, the art isn’t only painted on the walls, it’s coming out to get you. Former AC/DC singer Bon Scott (who died in 1980), has been sculpted bursting through the brickwork, created by sculptor Mike Makatron.

A street artist working in Melbourne, Australia
A street artist working in Melbourne, Australia

You can download an official street art map and visit the streets on your own, but there are great street art tours, led by working artists, which not only give you far more information that you’d find on your own, but also give you the chance to visit their studios at the end of the tours. Yes, it’s a blatant way for them to sell their work, but surely it’s better to go home with a genuine work of Australian art, rather than mass-produced tourist tat? 

'Real Australian' by Peter Drew
‘Real Australian’ by Peter Drew in Melbourne, Australia

Street art in Melbourne ranges from the simple but pithy stencilled slogans such as “Binge thinking is bad for your health”, to witty works by Stampz, including his kissing Disney princesses, and movingly beautiful images by @n20_jo, her works are so gorgeous that they make you stop, look and then keep looking. As with all the best street art, there are brilliant political works, such as pasted-up posters by Peter Drew, whose “Aboriginal Land Real Australians Seek Welcome” highlights injustices against the Aboriginal community, who are, despite many attempts to pretend otherwise, the original and only indigenous Australians. Another strikingly beautiful work, painted high over Hosier Lane is a massive, haunting portrait of an Aboriginal child, gazing across the top of Melbourne. He looks over what is now the city’s northern suburbs towards what was once a revered and sacred Aboriginal site. The portrait, by artist Adnate, stays in your vision long after seeing it. Long may it stay up there – as far as Adnate is concerned, it will be there until the elements destroy it, which seems a fitting analogy. 

Street art of a child drawing by @n20_jo in Melbourne, Australia
Street art by @n20_jo Street in Melbourne, Australia

There’s controversy here too: the working street artists, who lead the tours, despise over-commercialisation of the area. It might seem like a sweet irony, as they guide paying tourists through the maze of painted streets, but I understood what they meant, as we passed shops charging prices for so-called “street clothing” which only the only those in the salary bracket of a corporate lawyer (or drug dealer) could afford to buy with ease. These shops often pay street artists to create works – but isn’t that selling out? That was the question on seemingly all the artists’ lips. Though, having said that, UK street artist Banksy is still spoken about on the Melbourne scene with awe – yes, his works may be worth a fortune, but the reclusive Banksy still uses his talent to highlight social injustices and, often, to make others’ fortunes. When he paints on the sides of poor-looking buildings in the dead of night, he bequeaths a generous gift to the building’s owners, rather than making money from it himself. The greater irony I found on our tour was passionate way in which our street artist tour guide ranted against single-use plastics – whilst carrying a single-use-plastic water bottle…. 

Street art by Adnate in Melbourne, Australia
Street art by Adnate in Melbourne, Australia

Lucinda Hawksley is an author and travel writer based in London. Find out more at www.lucindahawksley.com or @lucindahawksley (Twitter and Instagram). 

3 February 2021 horizontal rule

Love Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites

Liven up your lockdown with the ‘Love Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites‘ – my new online event happening at 5.30pm (UK time) on 13 February, joinable from anywhere in the world. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/love-lives-of-the-pre-raphaelites-tickets-139878228547

'Paolo & Francesca da Rimini' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, painted in 1867.
3 February 2021 horizontal rule

1 December: Dickens’s Lost Portrait

This portrait of Charles Dickens was painted at the exact time he was writing A Christmas Carol, in 1843 – and then lost for almost 175 years. Join me to discover what was happening in Dickens’s life while he was working on his most famous Christmas book. I’ll also tell you about the talented female artist who painted his portrait and how she helped to inspire his writing. Fnd out the remarkable story behind the “lost portrait”, how it was re-discovered and how it can help us understand the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

The talk is taking place at 6pm UK time, and is joinable from all over the world. Tickets are on sale via Eventbrite, but the event will be on Zoom.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/begin-your-festive-season-with-dickenss-great-great-great-granddaughter-tickets-129469267063

The Lost Portrait: portrait of Charles Dickens, painted by Margaret Gillies in 1843, exhibited in 1844, then ‘lost’ for amost 175 years.
17 November 2020 horizontal rule

Online talk: A hairy history of art!

Come on a pogonographic journey into the history of facial hair in art! A few years ago I was commissioned to give several lectures and tours of the National Portrait Gallery about hairy history, and this resulted in my book Moustaches, Whiskers & Beards, inspired by the gallery’s collection. It’s a fun look at history of art as well as the social history of bewhiskered men and women, taking place on Thursday 30 July, at 6pm UK time – but joinable from all over the world. You can book tickets by following the Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-hairy-history-of-art-tickets-114670971964 Or by searching for “hairy history” on your Eventbrite app.

Once you have booked a ticket, please wait for an email, which will arrive on time for you to join the talk. That email will contain the zoom joining details of meeting ID and password. Please ensure you check your junk mail folders for the email, thank you. Please note I don’t record my talks, so I’m afraid it won’t be possible to watch the talk later. 

Take care and stay safe in this surreal time.

Moustaches, Whiskers and Beards by Lucinda Hawksley (book jacket)
24 July 2020 horizontal rule

De Morgan Foundation talk, 31 July

Last year, I was invited to become a Patron of the De Morgan Foundation. On 31 July, I’m doing my first event for them. Obviously it has to be online, but the great news about that is that you can join from anywhere in the world! I’ll be talking about Lizzie Siddal with Sarah Hardy, from the Foundation. Advance booking is essential: https://www.demorgan.org.uk/event/online-talk-pre-raphaelite-sisters-with-best-selling-author-lucinda-hawksley/

Book jacket: Lizzie Siddal, the Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, by Lucinda Hawksley
17 July 2020 horizontal rule

Online talk 3 June

I’ve started a series of online lectures to help us through this strange time of staying at home. The first was a virtual tour of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and the second is about Katey Dickens – aka the artist Kate Perugini – and it’s happening at 6pm London time on Wed 3 June. More info and ticket sales via this link on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/manage/events/107229462208/tickets

Please spread the word, thank you. It is joinable from all over the world, to anyone who is awake at 6pm UK time!

Take care and stay safe.

Book jacket for my biography 'Dickens's Artistic Daughter Katey', published by Pen and Sword.

2 June 2020 horizontal rule

Lockdown Lectures

Tomorrow I was supposed to be taking alumni from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on a tour of the National Portrait Gallery in London. Now, we’ll be doing this online tour of the gallery instead, via Zoom. If you know anyone else who might be interested in an online lecture / gallery tour please get in touch. #StaySafe

 for my lecture: A Virtual Tour of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
20 May 2020 horizontal rule

Dickens Lost Portrait podcast

If you’re looking for something to listen to during this strange time of lockdown, here’s a link to the podcast I made with Philip Mould, Emma Rutherford and others about the Lost Portrait of Charles Dickens. It’s in 3 episodes. https://browse.entale.co/show/790c94fe-cc89-45b5-90f3-b0defc7c7e24

27 March 2020 horizontal rule

Learn to write in Tuscany – book now!

Places are now available for my Life Writing course in the beautiful Verrocchio Art Centre in Tuscany. The course runs from 25 June 2020 until 2 July 2020. Numbers are strictly limited so early booking is a must. Find out more here: http://www.verrocchio.co.uk/cms/index.php/2020-courses and email Hannah on office@verrocchio.co.uk with any queries. Please spread the word, thank you.

The image shows deckchairs on the sunny terrace at the Verrocchio Art Centre in Tuscany, Italy.
26 January 2020 horizontal rule

Victorian Radicals in Texas

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas, which is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Victorian Radicals, including many items from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in England.

I was invited to give development training to the musem’s docents about the Aesthetic movement and to give a public lecture on Charles Dickens and the Pre-Raphaelites, which was a packed house!

Thank you San Antonio, for making me so welcome. What a beautiful place. If you’re in Texas, make sure you visit the exhibition. You won’t be disappointed.

The image shows the interior of the San Antonio Museumn of Art with the exhibition banner for Victorian Radicals: from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement, as well as a banner showing the image of Medea by Pre-Raphaelite artist Frederick Sandys.
23 October 2019 horizontal rule

The Dickens Lost Portrait

This portrait of Charles Dickens was painted by the Scottish artist Margaret Gillies in 1843. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1844. Since then it has been considered lost, the artist herself had no idea what had happened to it and its fate became a mystery. Until now – it was discovered in a terrible state (now restored as you can see) in a box of ‘household junk’ in South Africa. Now the Dickens Museum is trying to raise funds to buy it for its collection. Can you help? If so, please follow this link:

https://dickensmuseum.com/pages/lost-portrait-appeal

Find out more about the portrait and its amazing journey in this fascinating three-part podcast (free to download):

https://philipmould.com/gallery/edit/charles-dickens-the-lost-portrait-a-podcast


2 January 2019 horizontal rule

Walking tour: William Morris in West London

Book tickets now for my new walking tour, happening on Sat 28 July in London.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/william-morris-in-west-london-walk-tickets-48007198824

Walk along some of the prettiest river paths in London and discover the worlds of William Morris and his friends, as well as stories of feisty suffragettes, poets, designers, and ghosts of the old river. The walk will begin at Hammersmith station and end at Ravenscourt Park.

16 July 2018 horizontal rule

Princess Louise on Audible

On 12 June, my biography of Princess Louise will be available on Audible (& you can pre-order it now): https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Biographies-Memoirs/Queen-Victorias-Mysterious-Daughter-Audiobook/B07DCZ3J8H

1 June 2018 horizontal rule

Happy Birthday Princess Louise

Princess Louise was born 170 years ago today. Her life was fascinating to write about – even though my research was hampered by the mysteriousness of discovering the Royal Archives have closed off her files. Discover her story, available worldwide:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1082082/the-mystery-of-princess-louise/

http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250059321

  

18 March 2018 horizontal rule

My new book on Katey Dickens Perugini

I have fully updated my 2006 biography of Kate Perugini (née Dickens). Katey, as I came to know her, was a superb artist and a central figure in the late 19th-century art world; she was also my great great great aunt. This updated version was made possible by the many kind people who contacted me after reading my first edition of the book to share news about previously ‘lost’ paintings. Researching Katey again has been so fascinating. Her new biography is being published by Pen and Sword on 30 April 2018. If you order it in advance (link below), you will get a discount of £3:

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Dickens-Artistic-Daughter-Katey-Paperback/p/14728

16 March 2018 horizontal rule

Writing Biography workshop in Auckland

My other event at the Auckland Writers’ Festival in May is a workshop on “Writing Biography”. Tickets have just gone on sale:

http://www.writersfestival.co.nz/programmes/event/lucinda-hawksley-biography-writing/597989/

    

16 March 2018 horizontal rule

© Lucinda Hawksley 2021. Last updated 19 February 2021.