Melbourne is a lovely, lovely city – very European in feel with all those cozy outdoor cafes and little lanes and shops to explore all day. I took a walking tour in the center of the city and one of the most interesting things there was the graffiti all over the place. My guide explained that this was all state approved – Melbourne once actually had a problem with vandals painting on the walls. And then the government decided to do the best thing to stop that – make it legal and therefore, take the fun out of it (for the vandals, not the good citizens!). And now Melbourne is considered one of the best cities in the world for street art. This BBC story says, “The city has emerged as an unlikely leader in urban art, being compared with Berlin, New York and Sao Paolo, and attracting urban art A-listers like Blek le Rat (the Parisian “godfather of the stencil”) and Banksy.” And there is even a specialized graffiti-spotting Melbourne Street Tour.
There are forms to fill and processes to follow before your street art can be allowed to stay – or even be called art. And the state of Victoria takes its street graffiti very seriously – so there is a graffiti management plan, a graffiti mentoring program in schools and strict and heavy fines for unauthorized graffiti, including name tagging (just spraying your name on the walls). But this means that the back lanes and alleys of Melbourne are now clean and interesting to walk through.
[Notice the art on the garbage cans?]