Gone but not forgotten. Lost Melbourne Street Art.

A piece of street art is temporary. An ephemeral art form.

It will eventually disappear. It may be tagged, painted over or terminally faded by the harsh Australian summer sun or even, somewhat more dramatically, the wall or building acting as its urban canvas demolished. This is the norm for Melbourne street art. It is an entirely transient form of art and I would assume as a street artist it would be best not to become too attached to what you have just created.

Other than living in Brunswick, an inner-city Melbourne suburb synonymous with urban art, I have no association whatsoever with graffiti.

The laneways at the end of my street in Brunswick
The laneways at the end of my street in Brunswick

I’m not an artist nor do I ‘hang’ in their circles. However I do live in a street which is renowned for the works of many internationally acclaimed street artists. It is this accident of locality combined with my penchant for wandering and photography that drew me to street art many years ago.

So, do street artists feel aggrieved when one of their works gets destroyed for whatever reason? I’ve also often wondered if there is some kind of ‘code’ that dictates where new pieces can be painted and how long is considered ‘long enough’ before it can be painted over by others. I was keen to try and find some answers and stumbled upon a spot of luck.

In December I was fortunate enough to encounter one of the world’s most famous street artists ‘at work’ – the incredible Belgian artist ROA. Famed for his intricate black and white animal paintings, that can often span several stories in height, I ended up having a fascinating (well for me at least) chat with him. During this conversation I asked whether or not there was any code-of-ethics between artists. He replied:

there is a code of the streets that sorts out the relationship between taggers, graf and street artists. When a line is crossed it is sorted out from within.

Makes sense to me. Oh and I didn’t ask what exactly “sorted out” entails! What happens in Vegas…

To try and answer my other nagging question about the ‘feelings’ of artists when their work is defaced, defiled or demolished I was lucky enough to chat with one of Melbourne’s most influential urban art figures.

Piece by Kaff'eine continually 'tagged' for years. Eventually painted over 2015
Piece by Kaff’eine continually ‘tagged’ for years. Eventually painted over 2015

Toby the founder of Melbourne based Just Another Agency has on her books an impressive and enviable stable of some of Australia’s most talented, well-known and commercially successful urban artists (Including Kaff’eine pictured above). If anyone would know the answer she would. I asked Toby…

Do the artists get angry or annoyed when they are painted over or do they just have to grow a thick skin? Toby responds with…

A little from column A and a little from column B. No-one likes their work being capped or tagged. You spend hours creating something, transforming a wall and producing something you are proud to put your name to, so of course when it gets trashed you aren’t going to be thrilled however in saying this most, if not all artists that work on the street are aware this is part of the game. This is the ‘transient nature of graffiti’. This is what allows it to constantly grow and change. It’s also what I believe pushes artists to continue to grow and push the boundaries. If you create an incredible piece of work, the chances are it will stay up for a little bit longer. It also has to do with politics to a degree. It’s about your name. Have you done the hard yards to earn your place on the streets? Thats why “the greats” are respected.

Rather ironically the amazing piece below by RONE was eventually painted over by, um – RONE! Click to see more of his amazing Melbourne street art.

To sum up:

All of the Melbourne street art photographed by me for this story is now completely painted over. Old ghosts beneath new paint. Some were up for many years whilst others, like those in Hosier Lane, only a matter of days. All are now gone, but, as is the purpose of this post…

Not Forgotten.

Melbourne Street Art. [A Gallery]


Travel is my passion and also my career. I’ve spent my entire working-life in the travel industry with roles as diverse as tour guide, travel agent and marketing manager for some of the worlds largest travel brands. My favourite city in the world to visit is NYC and France is my most beloved country to explore. I travel to learn and observe to understand always with camera in hand.

20 thoughts on “Gone but not forgotten. Lost Melbourne Street Art.

  1. This is great post. i loved walking the streets in Melbourne and finding all the street art. There was a project out in the suburbs which got local taggers to create art work on shop doors to ‘legalise’ it and stop them tagging. Some create works were created.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a clever idea. That said I’m glad I didn’t have one of those ‘shop doors’ I’m really not a fan of tagging. It’s just a personal taste thang… Were you visiting Melbourne?


        1. Oh now I completely love it. I’m told many, if not most street artists start out tagging in any case. I’ve checked your blog out too and it’s a follow from me. Look forward to following your journeys. If you use Twitter maybe drop by #ANZtravelchat our Travel Chat each Wednesday. You can see more details by clicking the link in the top menu of my blog. Cheers


        2. I guess we all have to start somewhere. lol. Thanks for the follow. I’m thinking i should create a post inspired by yours with some of my own finds from around the world. watch this space 🙂 i’ll try and stop by one wednesday and thanks for the follow.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing these. I’m in Sydney so wouldn’t have ever seen them anyway, but I work in an area that’s full of street art so I know the importance of taking a pic as soon as you see some, or it might be gone the next day. I’ve never met any artists while they’re painting, but judging by the styles it looks like often the same artist has painted over their own earlier work. I’m always disappointed when one of my favourites disappears though. On the whole people seem pretty respectful about not tagging on other’s work tho.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problems. Many of the artists featured here – such as Rone & Adnate – definitely paint in Sydney as well. Yeah the ‘code’ of the streets tends to work out how long things stay up. Interestingly the much loved Swan in this article (by Kaff-eine) was painted over after many years by an artist called Shida but his piece was instantly tagged by others. I will posting up many more street art stories ahead so stay tuned :0

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some super talented artists in Melbourne Frankie. I’m lucky enough to live in a suburb where we still have quite a few Rone works still up 🙂 Thx for stopping by. There’s plenty more street art to come…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The fact that these images inspire such enthusiasm in you means they’ll be eternal in your mind and the minds of those you share them with. When’s the last time you could say the same about a gallery piece? It’s always sad when a particularly striking painting gets covered though – especially if the work that’s covering it is inferior. Such is the transient beauty of street art… I love the painting at the top!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall check it out hence forth. Tally ho!

        P.S. I added that video to my blog, so even though you can’t make it to Dismaland, at least you can experience a small part of it. Enjoy.


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