By Adrian Doyle
Hosier Lane has been an unaesthetic free-for-all for many years now.
After Amac left the lane and shut Citylights and Until Never galleries in about 2008, The Banksys had already been painted over accidently.
In 2009 I began running regular workshops twice a month with the young people through Signal. This meant that we would fix up any slashed artwork, which was mostly from artists we knew and respected, and try and keep the lane somewhat tidy.
In about 2010 the laneway started to get loads of media and became the lead advertising image for Destination Melbourne. It was around this time that Lonely Planet declared Hosier Lane to be the number one free tourist attraction in Australia.
Over the next few years Hosier Lane became world famous attracting close to 10,000 tourists a day. It became a free-for-all as everyone started painting all over the place and the quality of the art dropped.
In 2013 I painted the back laneway that runs off Hosier Lane with Empty-Nursery Blue. This artwork was playing with the idea of colour as a tag and made the entire lane into a giant empty swimming pool. Everything was painted, the ground, the bins, the windows, everything.
There was much backlash with this artwork. Partly because people thought it was government funded. It was not. But it was an artwork, which meant to add to the laneway and its history.
About six months later the main part of Hosier Lane was painted black by a residents’ group, Hosier Inc, in the name of rejuvenation. Nobody made much of a deal about this, all the history and the tiny stains of time, and art that had made Hosier its home was gone. The group hired high-end artists and painted up the lane. Then they gave it a makeover inviting all artists to come have a paint.
Since then Hosier has died off. I no longer run workshops there and nobody artistic has any say in what is happening on the ground. We still use the lane regularly on the Melbourne Street tours, as the laneway’s history is as important as the art.
Now that Culture Kings has opened on Hosier things have a different feel (they called the cops on an artist two years ago). It’s mostly “art-vertising” and wedding proposals with the occasional gem.
So, when the cool kids came into Hosier Lane with their fire extinguishers and painted over all the art and all the walls last month they added to the history of the lane.
Regardless of their intention and the context, the act was brutal but kind.
Now we can talk about Hosier Lane in a frank and honest way. We have one of Australia’s most important tourist attractions with almost 10,000 visitors per day and yet there is no kind of strategy on how to maintain and look after the lane. It is important to Melbourne and tourism. It seems everybody is upset when the lane is slashed, but in many ways, we have all let Hosier Lane fall into disrepair. Now that we are talking about it, what, or who, is going to stand up and help save this most precious resource?