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Move over, Melbourne central, Fitzroy and Collingwood are the city's street new art heartlands.
Chances are you've seen a tour group standing outside Movida restaurant on Hosier Lane, camera phones working overtime, two fingers up in the "victory" salute.
Melbourne has claimed its position as one of the world's premier street-art cities, rivalling Berlin, Sao Paulo, Paris and New York, but the city's top street artists say it's time street-art watchers moved out of the city centre and looked north-east for the hottest talent on Melbourne's walls.
The heartland of Melbourne's street art is the inner-city suburbs of Fitzroy and Collingwood, says one of Australia's best-known street artists, Rone. The founder of the high-profile Everfresh Studio on Perry St, Collingwood, he's best known for his series of beautiful women which now appear larger than life across the world, including a recent collaboration with the National Gallery of Victoria's Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition.
"Hosier Lane's finished," agrees street artist Doyle, notorious for blue-washing neighbouring Routledge Lane in 2013. Also the director of Blender Studios and Melbourne Street Tours, Doyle begins new street-art walks around Fitzroy and Collingwood next month. The tours, led by practising street artists, might include one of the few Banksy works in Fitzroy and a swathe of murals by Australia's biggest names, he says.
Tags, graffiti, stickers and paste-ups are illegal in the City of Yarra, but big-scale murals are taking over the suburb's walls.
On a walk down the cobbled laneways around Rose St, Fitzroy, and across Brunswick St into Collingwood, we spot street artist Putos working on a commission that turns out to be a marriage proposal, find fellow artist Mayonaize, fresh from painting the facade of the new Stone Hotel, performing his trademark calligraphy on a board in Everfresh Studios, and discover a new work that covers an entire building on Argyle St.
The mural was commissioned by the state's Department of Justice to cover what they said was an ugly mess of "tags, graffiti and faded stickers" covering the building. The artist took home $15,000 for a design chosen by the building's owners, but enraged the local street art community, many of whom think the artwork Life on Planet Daisyworld has whitewashed their training ground.
"Sure, street art's about having a voice. You put your name out there and 10,000 people see it. It is an ego sport," Rone admits.
However, the large-scale mural marks a new step in the bureaucrats' approach to public art, saying no to tags and basic lettering, saying yes to lavish, massive works covering a three-storey brick wall.
Many of the artists working on Melbourne's streets have a fine arts background and, with the assistance of building owners and the council, they have been given the time and space to create their work, rather than stealing moments to spray an illegal tag.
Far from being hidden from view, Melbourne has lifted its skirts and is showing its street art to all. In a moment of mainstream-meets-underground, Fitzroy and Collingwood's walls were recently showcased at the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE), Australia's largest annual travel industry business event, which attracted more than 2000 overseas and domestic travel industry buyers, media and Australian tourism companies.
Shaun Hossack, of Juddy Roller artist studios in Johnston St, Fitzroy, says that it's not going to stop there. "The powers that be haven't yet realised the capacity of artists to go higher and bigger," he says, citing Paris' voracious appetite for buying street art, which is as yet unmatched in Australia. He says street-art lovers should watch the work of upcoming Guido van Helten and "powerhouse" Finton McGee, with Instagram the key to finding new works across Melbourne.
Why has street art got such a following? Aside from its bold styles and the taste of subversion, you don't have to walk into a gallery, pay a fee, pass a front desk.
"It's art for the everyday," says Rone.
Melbourne Street Tours are run by practising street artists. Its new tour of Fitzroy and Collingwood starts August 1. Costs $69 a person, see melbournestreettours.com.
Easey's burger bar and gallery is covered in graffiti, the brainchild of curator-owner Jeremy Gaschk, 48 Easey St, Collingwood, see easeys.com.au.
The Bridge Hotel has stencils and paste-ups throughout the remodelled pub, 642 Bridge St, Richmond, see thebridgehotel.com.au.
Rose Street Market is an artists' market with ever-changing street art on its courtyard walls, 60 Rose St, Fitzroy, see rosestmarket.com.au.
Stone Hotel is covered in calligraphy by Mayonaize, 298-300 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, see thestonehotel.com.au.
FIVE ICONIC HOTSPOTS
1. Welcome to sunny Fitzroy, the longstanding Nightcat/Everfresh mural, cnr Johnson and Young Sts, Fitzroy.
2. The Bogan, a collaboration by Sofles, Smug and Adnate, which Wikipedia uses to illustrate the definition of a bogan, cnr Brunswick and Leicester Sts, Fitzroy.
3. Rose St, including Rose St car park, Fitzroy ("It's like a hall of fame", Rone says.)
4. Wood St, Fitzroy, for Smug's super-pink hyper-realistic self-portrait.
5. The power station, Cnr Easey and Wellington Sts, Collingwood, features Rone, Adnate, Mayo, Askew and Guido Van Helton, and Finton's nearby The Refugee.