Iconic celebrity prints on display at City Gallery

Iconic celebrity prints on display at City Gallery

A new City of Melbourne exhibition will take Melburnians on a nostalgic trip through the city’s past as iconic celebrity handprints, once proudly displayed at the entrance of McEwans Hardware Store, make their triumphant return to the heart of Melbourne.

A beloved fixture of the CBD in the 1970s and 1980s, McEwans Hardware Store was nestled in Bourke St before being purchased by Bunnings in 1993.

As visitors stepped into the store, they were welcomed by the imprints of actors, musicians, sports stars, writers, dancers, politicians, an astronaut, a racehorse, and even a talented opera-singing dog.

After two decades tucked away in an off-site warehouse, these concrete mementos are now on display at City Gallery, forming the centerpiece of the captivating GOTCHA! exhibition, running from April 17 to August 16.

“I was alerted by Eddie Butler-Bowden who heads the Art and Heritage Collection at the City of Melbourne, that there were these concrete blocks that had been taking up space and shuffled from spot to spot over the past 20 years,” exhibition curator and Melbourne history writer, Robyn Annear said.


They’ve kind of been sitting there waiting for their moment and Eddie suggested to me late last year that I might like to take a look at them and see what I could make of them.


Among the 40 prints on display include celebrities such as Evonne Goolagong, Jamie Redfern, Kamahl, Merv Hughes, Colleen Hewett, Heather McKay, John Bertrand, Paul Cronin and Johnny Letts, each with their own tale waiting to be uncovered.

“I had the best time trawling through old newspapers of the period, trying to pin down the daily stories and images of these ceremonies and celebrity appearances on the footpath outside McEwans Hardware Store,” Ms Annear said.

“You get such a sense of pre-social media, and how people craved to get close to celebrities and to get their faces in the picture as well.”



One of Ms Annear’s favourite stories discovered in the process of creating the exhibition is the intriguing narrative surrounding character actor Derek Nimmo, whose distinctive footprint captivated her.

“He appears to have no big toes,” she told CBD News.

“I googled his name, ‘Derek Nimmo’ and ‘toes’, and discovered that his big toes were double jointed, and he couldn’t make them stand vertically up in the air while his foot remained planted on the ground. That must have been what he did when he put his foot in the cement pavement.”

Designed for Melburnians to get “up close and personal” with the prints, Ms Annear hopes that visitors will be able to “put a face to the prints”, as well as bridging the gap between Melbourne’s past and present.

GOTCHA! will run at City Gallery from April 17 to August 16. •

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