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Tag Archives: Andy Mac

Melbourne Street Art Past and Future

In Centre Place there are a couple of relics of an earlier era of Melbourne’s street art. Both the City Lights and Heart Lock are now covered in layers of paint and stickers. Centre Place was once a prime location for graffiti and street art, now after a new building it is now too small for more than one or two pieces.

The heart lock is still there but has lost its heart and I think that it has been moved from its original location. I guess that Melbourne walking tour guides no longer tell the love story about Paula Birch’s Sacred Heart of Centre Place (See Demet Divaroren’s Blog for the legend). Andy Mac’s City Lights Project were photo light boxes; you can still see the now redundant cables for the power. There were two sets installed in Centre Place and Hosier Lane back in the 1996. (For more see my blog post from 2009.)

Appearing to go further back in time; I spotted these initials carved into the bluestones along the bank of the Yarra. At first I thought that they might have been stonemason’s marks. However, if they were stonemason’s marks I would have expected them more widespread amongst the stone embankment rather than concentrated in one place. If they were stonemasons would also expect greater quality in the carving of the initial. So I suspect that they are mid-century modern tags but they could be earlier.

I photographed some more stencils around the city; not surprised that this time they are in the laneway leading to the new location for Blender Studios. Melbourne’s street art and graffiti appears to have entered a holding pattern. Instead of any developments or new directions there is an almost steady state where we can expect more repetition. No new developments, just new walls with the same kind of stuff on them. There are so few innovators currently on the scene that I’m not even aware of any disruptors, like Lush. In another old street art location, Presgrave Place, there are new works by Tinky, Phoenix and Calm.

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Hosier Now (All Your Walls)

Peril and Adnate were the just finishing their work around 6:15pm on Friday 29th November. Paris’s piece was cutting into Adnate at the other end and now Peril was asking Adnate to do a bit of fill with over-spraying just under his piece. There were lots of collaborations in Hosier Lane its side branch, Rutledge Lane. For weeks 120 artists, 11 crews, of Melbourne’s best graffers and street artists went a painting all the walls. All the walls? Yes, all your walls.

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At 6pm the public had been invited to view the results and this was a Hosier Lane like you have never seen it before – All Your Walls is part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition Melbourne Now. Two bloggers, Dean Sunshine (Land of Sunshine) and Fletcher Anderson (Invurt) along with Toby (Just Another Agency and who formerly ran 696) organized the event.

Fletch Anderson’s eyes light up when he talks about Melbourne’s street art. He really believes that he is living in the right place at the right time in art history. He really believes that Melbourne’s street art is up there with New York, Sao Paulo, Berlin and Los Angeles. Fletch (aka Factor) is such a believer that he made his dream come true. There were teenagers and old school old hands all painting together. Dean Sunshine told me that there were crews that absolutely hated each other painting at the same time in Hosier Lane.  There were no beefs between the street artists and the graff crews.

“No bullshit, no politics, no problems.” Fletch gives a great quotes when inspired by his vision of an urban paradise of paint.

Hosier Lane was closed off to traffic for the evening. Normally there are a lot of people walking around taking photographs in the lane but this evening capped them all. There were artists, academics, art collectors, hoodie-wearing people, office workers on their way home, residents, street artists showing their kids their work and people who use the social services located in the lane.

The lane got its name because it was originally part of the Melbourne’s garment district. Now the former rag trade warehouses in the area have now been converted to gallery spaces and apartments and the laneway’s walls are Melbourne’s iconic centre for graffiti and street art.

It would have been an urban paradise evening if it weren’t for the freezing cold wind that was ripping through Melbourne. It is hard to be convivial with all these fine people when the cold is rising from the old bluestone cobbles.

In completely repainting the lane they started with an undercoat of black, buffing all previous work in both Hosier and Rutledge. Black… I said something about this colour in my review of Melbourne Now. There is a stencil quote on the laneways from Leonardo da Vinci advocating black as an underpainting.  This was followed by scissor lifts and repeating of the upper levels and finally the lower levels, the areas assigned to various artists marked on the wall.

It is not just aerosol art; there are plenty of paste-ups and installations. Junky Projects has attached an enormous work of junk art to the wall, a Dada/Futurist wet dream. It is one of his largest and most abstract works yet. Lego construction workers by Pop Gun (or “Pop Cap”?) stand on a miniature beam high up on the laneway’s wall. Phoenix has a large cluster of political paste-ups and his Dali butterflies up on the walls.

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In 2010 people speculated what would happen to Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane post-Amac when long time resident and un-official curator of the lane, the cowboy hat wearing, Andy Mac (aka Amac) moved out. They were concerned and had good reasons to be Amac had been there in the 1990s at the start of the graffiti and street art in the lane. He added to the lane with the Citylights Project light-boxes and Until Never gallery. Amac was there to tell writers not to tag significant pieces and he organized the painting other pieces.

Post-Amac there were a few problems in the lane – CCTV, RIP Jill Meagher, and endless angry capping. Some people may even consider Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue as one of the problems but it really cleared the way for All Your Walls. In his piece, Calm comments on Empty Nursery Blue with a gnu buffing with blue.

Calm, All Your Walls

Calm, All Your Walls

The problems in Hosier Lane have been solved with the good will of the residents, Hosier Inc., the City of Melbourne especially City Engineer, Gordon Harrison, the artists, bloggers, the Alley Chats group of interested parties… lots of people are concerned for this lane and its art.

Now the NGV have joined the party including All Your Walls in it’s Melbourne Now era defining exhibition. There have been major exhibitions of street art in major museums around the world but Hosier Lane offer the opportunity for the exhibition to come out of the gallery, and conveniently Hosier Lane is just across Flinders Street from the NGV at Fed Square.

All Your Walls is an era defining moment; it is the first time that all the walls of Hosier Lane have been painted before in such a co-ordinated effort with so many major crews, notable writers and artists. It creates Melbourne’s very own graffiti wall of fame. The major names in Melbourne’s street art scene now have work in Melbourne’s iconic Hosier Lane. In the past you would have to go to Brunswick or Fitzroy to see AWOL’s work, now it is up, high up in Hosier. Old school Melbourne aerosol writers, Paris and Peril and the KSA crew have not been forgotten.

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This is going to have implications for the future; such a definitive exhibition promotes ossification. Artists were already talking maintaining their work, about keep their space in the lane as perpetual territory, and their plans to deal with taggers. There is more space between the pieces than there was in the past when the competition was so intense.

When it comes to the future of Melbourne’s street art and Hosier Lane I am not a visionary. I can’t see the future and make it happen but I do know that just as Melbourne Now is a must see exhibition, an era defining moment of Melbourne’s art history, so is All Your Walls.


CCTV or not CCTV (Act 2)

The issue of proposed CCTV in Melbourne’s heart of street art, Hosier and Rutledge Lanes has been resolved. After deferring the decision to install CCTV cameras in Rutledge Lane and Hosier Lane the Melbourne City Council has decided not to install them. (See the Melbourne Leader 26/9/12 and Act 1 of CCTV or not CCTV)

Through out these two acts, there has not been a lot of drama because there has been a lot of respect shown. I hope that nothing I have said or written has shown any disrespect because nothing but respect has been shown to me. Even the Melbourne Leader had to try to dramatise events using the words “back down” as if there was some primitive dominance struggle. Life don’t need to be a soap opera when no-one is watching.

The residents of the lanes and the street artists, Fletch of Invurt especially, have been working hard, liasing with all the stakeholders, going to meetings, writing emails and trying to create a neighbourhood based on respect in these laneways. Everyone has acted reasonably and rationally. I am pleasantly surprised, almost shocked, at how reasonably and rational the process has been. The most telling example of this is that the city engineer, Gordon Harrison recommended to the council not to proceed with the installation of CCTV cameras.

Andy Mac’s cowboy hat will be filled by a committee of residents and artists. There is need for a contact person for the art in the lane and it is hoped/expected that person will be Adrian Doyle, who has an interest in the quality of the art from Pia and his street art tour business.  If anyone can keep his finger on the pulse of the lane then Doyle can. It would be good to have a committee, of residents and artists, to back up this position so that the same situation following Andy Mac’s egress doesn’t develop again.

There is such a sense of community about these lanes. Creating an inner neighbourhood is hard in Melbourne and Hosier Lane is not easy, you have to admire the effort that people are putting in here. For more information about Hosier Lane and to take part in online discussions about the future of the area (for anyone who works, lives or plays in the lanes) see Hosier Rutledge Neighbourhood Online.

Hosier Lane stands in contrast to what happened with Centre Place. Six years ago I used to enjoy going there now I can hardly look at Centre Place anymore. It has been going down hill for years. Now it is just a mess and it is getting worse, there is no respect shown for any of the art.

Now that the CCTV or not CCTV has been resolved we can get back to enjoying the art in those great laneways – respects to all everyone using the laneways.

Various artists, Hosier Lane

Shida in Hosier Lane

Will Coles mask in Rutledge Lane


CCTV or not CCTV (Act 1)

Melbourne City Council’s plans to spend $60,000 on installing two CCTV cameras in Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane could destroy a world-class cultural asset. The street art in Hosier Lane is Melbourne’s 3rd most popular tourist attraction. You can read in The Age about the council meeting where Fletch (of Invurt) spoke to Melbourne City Council and got them to defer the decision.

Rutledge Lane, September, 2012

There are so many levels to this issue that need to be discussed from the philosophical, the political, the aesthetic, criminological and the practical, empirical evidence. After so many meetings, emails, phone-calls and other communications… I don’t know where to start.

Concerns for the future direction of Hosier Lane emerged after the departure of Andy Mac, who lived above the lane for over a decade and established Until Never Gallery in the same building. Andy Mac acted as an unofficial curator for the laneway, a moderating influence on the madness of this graffiti tolerance zone. It is a beautiful and dynamic place. There is often someone painting in Rutledge Lane when I visit. Earlier this year I was showing my parents the lane and my mother started talking to a guy spraying the wall. The guy, Wons proved to be an excellent cultural ambassador for graffiti, explaining that: “the work underneath had been ruined with tags…‘capped’ is the correct term”. (Cheers Wons – see Arty Graffarti for the piece that Wons was doing at the time.)

Looking up Hosier Lane with wedding party arriving. Hosier Lane is a popular site for wedding photos.

On Friday the 7th I was listening to a paper by Prof. Saul Newman, Reader, Dept. of politics, Goldsmiths, University of London at the Victorian College of the Arts. Prof. Newman argued that there is a need for anonymity in the coming politics, considering Giorgio Agamben’s state of exception, and the desire for governments to have a monopoly on appearance. Issues including Foucault’s interpretation of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon were being discussed. Philosophy is not isolated from the world and current events; it is, in away scouting out new territory, way ahead of the frontline. This time philosophy proved prescient and on the weekend I plunged into this current issue of trying to stop the installation of CCTV cameras in Hosier Lane.

What are the problems that the CCTV hopes to solve? The most important issue on the mind of Mayor Robert Doyle was assaults – there have been several assaults in the two lanes and reducing assaults should be a high priority.

Will CCTV cameras do this? I’ve been looking at systematic reviews of the effectiveness of CCTV cameras; a systematic review is an independent assessment of all the evidence gathered from multiple studies. According Skinns to “the introduction of CCTV had no effect on the personal crime offences such as assault.” (Skinns, D (1998) ‘Crime Reduction, Diffusion and Displacement: Evaluating the Effectiveness of CCTV’ in Norris, Moran and Armstrong (eds.) (1998) Surveillance, Closed Circuit Television and Social Control, Ashgate) The only strong evidence for crime reduction due to CCTV cameras is when they are used in car parks to stop vehicle crimes.

There are a range of other problems with installing CCTV cameras include the targeting of minority groups by police and the supply of data to US intelligence via TrapWire (see Darker Net). Trapwire has prompted Anonymous to call for the destruction of all CCTV cameras (see their video) adding another problem to this mix – the likely destruction of these expensive cameras. This is not the ravings of a conspiracy theory blogger; the residents of Hosier Lane are concerned about damage to their property as a resident’s window was broken when the mirrors installed in the lane were broken.

What would be the likely outcome of installing CCTV in Hosier or Rutledge Lanes? Even though there are street art permits for some part of the lanes the artists that worked in there will not feel anonymous and worry that they will be tracked through the network of CCTV cameras in the city. The consequence of this will be to drive the better artists away leading to a reduction in quality of the art in the lane and ultimately the loss of this unique cultural location without any reduction of assaults.

Various artists, Hosier Lane

Wisely Melbourne City Council has already installed lockers for bins to prevent fires being lite in them and budgeted for increased street lighting in Hosier Lane (a parallel systematic review about street lighting found a reduction in crime by 20%). This is a complex the political, the aesthetic, criminological and social issue and there must be a better way to spend $60,000 (plus maintenance and the cost of staff to monitor the cameras) to reduce assaults in Hosier and Rutledge Lane. The story continues in CCTV or not CCTV (Act 2).

Security camera (artist’s impression)


Amac Auction Action

Sunday was a big day in Melbourne’s street art calendar and yet there was no aerosol in the air – it had been replaced by the smell of money. I’ve been following in blog posts the progress of street art moving from the street, into the gallery and now into the auction house. Not that this is the first street art auction in Melbourne but the Andy Mac Collection is an important event and Leonard Joel is a major art auction house.

For over a decade Andy Mac (aka Amac) has been involvement with Melbourne’s street art. He established City Lights (in Centre Place 1996 and in Hosier Lane in 1998) and then Until Never gallery in 2005. He is the first person for a media or documentary interview on Melbourne’s street art. He has also been a serious collector, not just of street art but also skateboards, ceramics and rock band posters for a quarter of a century.

The auction is a serious operation with a full colour newsprint catalogue, receptionists, and a floor talk by Andy Mac on the Saturday before the auction. Viewing of the Andy Mac Collection – “street and fine art from Citylights Project 1992-2012” had been open all week at Leonard Joel auction house in South Yarra. And the publicity for the auction had been going since March (my father sent me a clipping from The Australian 3/4/12 about the auction – that’s what people did before the advent of the online world). There is a lot of money at stake in this auction, an expected $350,000. Andy Mac will get his superannuation retirement investment. And Leonard Joel will get the 22% buyers premium along with a percentage of the auction price. And some artists may have a game changing moment in their career.

The viewing room was a major exhibition of street art itself, complete with catalogue. Three walls at one end of Leonard Joel’s converted old schoolrooms were covered in wall panels of stencils from 2004, the Freeze Muthastika. This collaborative work was painted at the Big Day Out in 2004 and consists of 72 panels (measuring over 30 metres in length, or 60 sq metres approx). Two sets of these panels were sold for $28,000 and the other two were passed in passed in.

Scattered amongst the stencil art there is a signature David Waters sculpture made from foam ($350), beautiful Marcos Davidson rings and one his spectacular assemblages (unsold). It seemed like everything was up for sale, including the perpex tables from Until Never gallery. The “very rare 1957 Featherston Series 21 chair” signed Amac, Rubin, Braddock, Terror and Sync might be bought for the chair or the signatures (sold for $1500 ). Industrial double sided step ladder, Lot 419 “Blue fiberglass construction helmet” estimated at $100 – $200 (Tell them they’re dreaming!) (unsold)

On Sunday the auction room was packed; they even had to bring out more chairs to put another row down the back although numbers thinned after an hour. Along one side of the room there was a table of telephones and laptops attended by assistants dealt with the phone and online bidding. Lots were displayed digitally on two screens and there were over 500 lots to get through (so I did not stay to report on all the details).

Art collector Andrew King started the bidding on the first lot up for auction and over the course of auction added many works to his extensive street art collection. (For more about Andrew King and Sandra Powell’s collection see CDH’s interview with them on Invurt). King was not alone in the bidding and there was sometimes stiff competition for particular works. J.D. Mittman, the former gallery director of Famous When Dead was also bidding, seated at the back of the room with the artist, Adi. There weren’t many artists in attendance; Adi, Miso and Seldom were the only artists that I recognized.

The auction house estimates were on the optimistic side and it was rare for a lot to go above that price. A few lots went unsold, most of those due to the bidding falling just shy of the reserve price. Some lots achieved different prices depending on the colour of paint sprayed through same stencil by an unknown artist: 84. brown (unsold), 85. red (unsold), 86. purple (sold $200) 87. black (sold $260). Other lots achieved different prices depending on the subject of the art. You can see the auction results for yourself at Leonard Joel’s website (all prices quoted exclude the 22% buyers premium).


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