Hosier incident polarises the city

By Meg Hill

On Monday, February 10, news broke that a masked group of people had paint-bombed half of Hosier Lane during the weekend.

Footage showed the group of about 10 spraying paint out of fire extinguishers, filming themselves with a drone.

The response, on one side, was to call the act vandalism and report it to the police. This was the approach taken by the City of Melbourne.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp recognised the nature of street art as “temporary, ephemeral and forever changing” but continued to describe the group as “vandals” and the behaviour “unacceptable and “not in keeping with the spirit of Hosier Lane”.

The lane has long been considered a legal grey area, where tagging without explicit permission was tolerated largely due to the status of the lane as a tourism destination.

But the Council said it was considering revising guidelines for painting in the lane.

“While Hosier Lane is recognised as a long-standing street art site, written permission from the owner is still technically required to create street art on a private property within the laneway,” a council spokesperson said. 

“Building owners are within their rights to contact Victoria Police if they’re unhappy with street art being undertaken on their property.”

The spokesperson said the spray-bombing was considered vandalism by the City of Melbourne “particularly given the damage they’ve done to the pavement and cobblestones”.

“The City of Melbourne is currently considering the introduction of Street Art Guidelines to assist street artists and provide clarity for all parties.”

But many street artists have shrugged off the drama and suggested being “painted over” was always the nature of the lane. 

And in 2018 an uproar was triggered when Culture Kings, then new to the lane, reported artists painting without permission to the police. 

A filmmaker who claimed to be involved in the paint-bombing told The Age it was an artistic and political statement.

“[Hosier Lane] gets painted over every day,” he said. 

“It’s just the shock and the awe of it. But people’s emotional response gives it credence as art. Art is supposed to provoke emotion. But apparently that’s a concept that goes over the top of a lot of people’s heads.”

Police have released CCTV footage of a group of people and said they were investigating the incident.

For more read street artist Adrian Doyle’s regular column on street art.

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