Who painted the lane?
Hosier Lane is a well-known and culturally significant laneway located in the heart of the CBD. If you don’t know where it is, then you’re probably not from around here.
Hosier and its little sister, Rutledge, have gained international recognition as a centralised location for street art and graffiti culture. I have touched on the history of Hosier before, but here we go again …
The history of Hosier Lane is intertwined with Melbourne’s evolution with its history dating back to the late 19th century when Melbourne was rapidly expanding. The lane was named after a local businessman named Robert Hosier.
Like many other laneways in Melbourne, Hosier Lane was originally a service lane, primarily used for deliveries and access to buildings for the clothes and material making factories and shops along Flinders Lane.
However, it wasn’t until the late 20th century and early 21st century that Hosier Lane began to transform into the street art haven it is today. Andy Mac and Richie BB set up Citylights on the side of the Forum theatre with permission from the Mariners. It was a bunch of light boxes that artists would put pictures in, and it would change every few months.
This was a project that was perfectly timed to help kickstart the urban art movement in 1998. The openings were crazy; often big, awesome parties. A second site was set up in Centre Place at the end of Degraves.
Back then there really was no art on the walls. It wasn’t until about 2001 that these lanes started to be painted and it was left pretty much to the blossoming urban art movement exclusively – no tags, no slashing – beautiful youthful art transformed these lanes and then flowed out into the network of lanes that Melbourne has the privilege of owning.
Over time, it became a famous, dynamic outdoor gallery and it was considered the largest of its kind in the world, showcasing a wide array of artistic styles, messages, and techniques.
The lane became a symbol of Melbourne’s vibrant and diverse arts scene. It’s a testament to the city’s embrace of street art as a valid form of artistic expression.
Pre-COVID, Hosier Lane drew 9000 visitors a day from all over the world who come to admire the ever-changing murals and graffiti, and was voted the number one free tourist attraction in Australia by Lonely Planet. It even beat Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef! It had become a must-visit spot for tourists looking to experience Melbourne’s creative spirit.
Hosier Lane’s fame has spread far beyond Melbourne, becoming an iconic representation of the city’s cultural landscape on an international scale.
During the past four years Hosier, like much of the city’s urban art precincts, has fallen into disrepair and has lost a lot of its charm. It seems wherever there is a good street art precinct someone is always allowed to build a skyscraper; this has ruined many of the important street art areas in the city.
But the point of this story is that three weeks ago the whole of Hosier Lane was painted in a dark grey. Every artwork was covered, even the ground, and nobody seems to know who did it!
I would think it was government sanctioned but then the ground would never be covered. It was done with rollers, and it was clumsy in application. And yes, I did paint Rutledge in empty Nursery Blue but that’s because I wanted to make it look like a giant empty swimming pool. But I struggle to see the motivation of painting it grey.
It’s weird because it would have made the news five years ago, but because Hosier is done, no one seems to care anymore.
The truth is whoever painted Hosier in grey has really helped clean up the lane – there are now fresh, new and clean pieces; the lane has been given somewhat of a facelift and it looks heaps better.
I don’t know who painted Hosier Lane, but I thank you. You have done so much to fix the lane.
You, my friend, are a hero! •