Hosier Lane

Melbourne, Victoria

Hosier Lane is not just a static gallery but a living, breathing canvas that’s always changing.

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- LT Photography

Discover Hosier Lane in Melbourne

Melbourne has been named “The Most Liveable City in the World” for many years now, but why? Well it has a lot to do with its coffee culture, foodie scene, music and sporting events, and little tucked away places like Hosier Lane. This small laneway, located on the southern edge of Melbourne's central business district (CBD), extends between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, opening opposite the Atrium at Federation Square. Like other quirky lanes in the capital—we’re thinking of ACDC Lane—it is filled with dramatic street art that covers the walls and buildings on both sides of the lane.

Despite a common misconception, the graffiti in Hosier Lane is not legal; it is technically illegal, yet this has not deterred artists from leaving their mark, making it a bit more like the Krog Street Tunnel in Atlanta. The art itself is in a constant state of flux with new pieces regularly added and old ones painted over. Locals and tourists flock daily to witness the dizzying array of colours, characters, and shapes created by both local and international artists, before they change. Visitors can choose to explore the lane on their own or join one of the many walking tours available, which provide background information on the artists and progress towards Rutledge Lane, a sister 'gallery' that extends the experience.

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- Daniel Sallai

The History of Hosier Lane

Industrial Roots

The narrow cobblestone alley that is Hosier Lane wasn’t always so colourful and artsy, in the 19th century it was notorious for opium dens and brothels, giving it a reputation as a seedy and dangerous area. In the 1920s, this lane was part of Melbourne’s garment district, housing an organ factory, a men’s clothing warehouse, and a costume manufacturer. Due to this it was originally referred to as ‘Hosiery Lane’.

The neighbouring streets, Higson Lane and Oliver Lane, also featured warehouses for businesses in the clothing manufacturing industry. Some of the historical structures from this era, specifically at 3-5 and 7-9 Hosier Lane, are now listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory, highlighting their commercial and residential significance during the industrial period.

Hosier Lane 5
- Filipe Castilhos

Transforming into the Modern Hosier Lane

It wasn’t until the 1980s that Hosier Lane began its transformation into a blank canvas for aspiring street artists. Initially influenced by New York’s graffiti scene, Melbourne’s street art first appeared on train carriages and railway tracks before turning up on the city’s disused laneways. Hosier Lane quickly became a focal point for these creatives. The once-industrial lane became revamped in colour and creation where tags and pieces spray-painted after hours evolved into more interesting shapes and sculptures.

Official Recognition of Hosier Lane

In 1998, the City Lights Initiative officially launched Hosier Lane as a Street Art Gallery, cementing its status as an essential part of Melbourne’s cultural fabric. The lane's proximity to Federation Square and its connection to Flinders Lane and Flinders Street make it a central point of Melbourne's street art scene. Its walls, covered in world-class, often politically charged art, began to feature in various state-sponsored publications and tourism campaigns, such as the Melbourne Design Guide and Tourism Victoria's "Lose Yourself in Melbourne" advertising campaign.

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- Feral Arts

The Street Art on Hosier Lane

The narrow street is a melting pot of different styles, including graffiti, stencils, paste-ups, and murals. The artworks often depict social and political issues, pop culture references, and personal expressions, created by both local and international street artists. Every other day Hosier Lane’s street art provides a backdrop for photoshoots, music videos, TV series, and more.

Efforts to preserve and promote the lane’s art have included the establishment of a Street Art Walk, which highlights some of the best pieces in the area. One of the most famous pieces was a Banksy stencil, "Parachuting Rat," created in 2003 but unfortunately painted over by city council workers in 2010. Other artists include ABOVE (USA), Shepard Fairey (USA), Invader (France), and D*FACE (GB), as well as local talents like Ha Ha, Prism, and Rone.

Hosier Lane 7
- LT Photography

The Street Artists of Hosier Lane

Some of the more well-known artists who have left their stamp on Hosier Lane include:

  • Rone: An Australian artist celebrated for his large-scale, detailed, and emotive portraits. Rone's work often represents a balance between beauty and decay.
  • Dvate: Known for his bold, graphic style and use of bright colours, Dvate's artwork is instantly recognisable. His pieces add a splash of energy and life to the lane.
  • Meggs: This Australian artist is renowned for his large, graphic statements and his exploration of social and political themes. Meggs' work often carries a powerful message, making viewers stop and think.
  • Adnate: Famous for his large-scale, realistic portraits of Indigenous Australians, Adnate's artwork is both stunning and culturally significant, sharing the stories of Australia's Indigenous communities.
  • Lush: Known for his use of vibrant colours and bold, abstract shapes, Lush's work brings a sense of playfulness to the lane.
  • Lister: With a focus on typography and social and political themes, Lister's artwork is thought-provoking and often text-based, encouraging viewers to engage with the written word as well as visual art.
  • Numskull: Recognisable for his use of bright colours and bold shapes, Numskull's pieces add a modern and edgy feel to Hosier Lane.

These artists represent just a fraction of the talent that has contributed to Hosier Lane's vibrant street art scene.

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- 1llustr4t0r .com

Major Events on Hosier Lane

Over the years, Hosier Lane has witnessed several significant events that have shaped or shed light on its identity.

2005 Documentary "RASH"

This documentary delves into Melbourne’s underground street art scene, including the early days of Hosier Lane, offering an in-depth look at the artists and what inspired them.

2013 "Empty Nursery Blue"

In a bold artistic statement, street artist Adrian Doyle painted the entire adjacent Rutledge Lane a single colour, "Empty Nursery Blue," with the city council's consent, transforming the space and challenging conventional views on street art.

2013 All Your Walls

Melbourne's largest urban art paint-up, organised by Invurt, Land of Sunshine, and Just Another, saw over 100 local graffiti and street artists repaint both Hosier and Rutledge Lanes over one weekend. The event included live graffiti projections and was held in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria's Melbourne Now event.

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- Jason Tong

Challenges to Hosier Lane's Street Art

Despite its celebrated status, Hosier Lane has faced challenges and controversies. In early 2020, a group of masked individuals 'colour bombed' the lane using fire extinguishers filled with brightly coloured paint, erasing many artworks. This act was deemed ‘vandalism’ by the police and Melbourne’s Lord Mayor. However, opinions were divided, with some artists arguing that this act was simply a part of the lane’s ever-evolving nature and provided artists with a fresh start.

Another issue that arose from Hosier Lane’s street art was that the act itself is often viewed as illegal vandalism, leading to periodic removals and over-painting by local authorities. However, recognising the cultural and economic value of Hosier Lane, the Melbourne city government has adopted a more tolerant stance.

In a bid to balance preservation with innovation, the city of Melbourne has collaborated with street artists to create legal murals and art installations within Hosier Lane. These projects ensure that artists can continue to produce new works while safeguarding the lane’s artistic heritage. By providing a legal framework for street art, the city not only supports the artists but also protects Melbourne’s global reputation for world-class street art.

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- SalTheColourGeek

Dining and Nightlife on Hosier Lane

If the street art doesn’t tempt you to Hosier Lane—although, we know it will—thankfully there are lots of other reasons to visit. One being the nightlife and great foodie scene. A must-visit is MoVida, a renowned Spanish tapas restaurant located at the southern end of the lane. This Melbourne establishment offers a delicious menu of Spanish dishes in a cosy and inviting setting.

For those looking for a more casual dining experience, Tres a Cinco, a colourful Mexican cantina, serves up delicious tacos and tequila. This newcomer to the lane has quickly become a favourite spot for both locals and tourists.

In addition to its dining options, Hosier Lane is home to several upmarket cocktail lounges. The popular Misty bar offers a chic and relaxed atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploring… the street art! No we’re only joking, there are loads of other reasons to visit Victoria’s capital city—why not pop over to our blog for more sightseeing ideas in Melbourne?!

Hosier Lane
- Bernard Spragg

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