Blender finds new lane for street art

The crew dubbed Melbourne’s “spiritual home” of street art has moved into a new abode near Flagstaff Gardens. 

Blender Studios started almost 20 years ago in a laneway near Queen Victoria Market. Many see the beginning of the modern Melbourne city street art culture in the birth of Blender.

The crew has recently had a two-year stint in Docklands, but their new lease on at 35 Dudley St is the first long-term lease it’s signed. It’s secured the space for at least five years. 

The artists have picked up the benefits of moving around, but Blender founder Adrian Doyle said it wasn’t a choice.

“We always had short-term leases. As an art studio in Melbourne we often get the buildings that aren’t in the best condition, because the ones that are aren’t affordable for us,” he said.

“We’ve got security now, so we can take our time and make sure the gallery is beautiful and the quality of the artists is up to standard.”

“It was pure luck and we’ve had to re-do the space quite substantially, but it’s near impossible for artists to get space in the city now.”

The space is big enough to accommodate the 25 artists comfortably, plus the crew’s research gallery and a laneway for their events.

Blender started and still runs Melbourne CBD’s street art tours, which now has its final stop at its new studios.  The tours made it imperative that the studio stayed in the CBD.

“Blender started in 2001. I set it up when I was on the dole. I was only 21 at the time,” Doyle said.

The success of the studios is still tied to that beginning, and to addressing the financial woes of those who pursue a career ion art.

“80 per cent of the artists here make a living. We sell all the art that they make in the studios and there’s no commission. All the money goes to the artists.”

“The tours give people a job. We run workshops, we do events in the laneway.”

The studio’s research gallery, Dark Horse Experiment, is a nod to the grassroots of the art world and a snub to the high.

“We realised that rich people dictate the art world but they often have shit taste, and just because something’s not sellable doesn’t mean it’s not important.”

Showing art that’s likely not sellable is a gallery concept that is unique amongst art commodification. But Doyle said the point of Blender was, in the most immediate sense, to have a studio that wasn’t lonely.

“The first few studios I was in, no one ever visited. It really sucked the energy. This place is always buzzing.”

It seems that popular taste and market success do, somewhere, diverge.

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