A street in Melbourne has gone blue! For a grand total of 45 minutes.
Artist Adrian Doyle has painted one of Melbourne’s iconic street art sites with 150 litres of “empty nursery blue” in order to create a new canvas for emerging street artists. The paintwork is also intended to be an artwork in it’s own right with the colour representing a concept of merging his past and present and promoting art to passers-by. But not everyone sees it that way. Street Artists have shown anger at the organised destruction of work existing in the Lane and an interesting tension has arisen over the hierarchy of street art as the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has criticised taggers for destroying “real” art in Hosier Lane.
I find this tension, this idea of what “real art” is and therefore what protection or even monetary value it should be given, in the context of street art fascinating. When the Banksy artwork was taken from Turnpike Lane and put up for auction, expecting to sell for around 400,000 USD, I was disgusted… and amused… the concept of making money from a stand against capitalism is pretty outrageous. And it was the heartless way the theft, and it was morally theft, was argued – this is our property, we own this wall, the community can’t own a piece of work, and it’s street art so you can’t expect it to be protected… but we will expect to own it, it’s on my wall, I will sell it and it will become a private investors piece. Bish Bash Bosh Kerching and screw you local community.
Ultimately yes street art has a transient nature. It arrives, is changed, added to, covered completely, sometimes washed away and that works for this form. Street art captures moments of expression, tells stories of people – who was here, what are the political opinions being voiced, and a wealth of current artistic expression. But the outside nature of street art means that change is surely expected. How on earth can we begin to select which pieces are too culturally important to be part of a living canvas? Could this curated approach destroy the energy that street art creates? Or if we don’t assign values does it mean that we’ll end up with no record of ground breaking artists like Banksy?
That said this particular “challenge” to the artistic communities of Melbourne makes me a little uncomfortable. However it is argued a blanket paintjob whether white wash or expressionistic blue feels like an aggressive move against the organic growth of artists. The request to make it a space of experimentation and a platform for new artists seems to be a boxing-in method to control content. I’d very much be in favour if a completely new space had been created as a new street art canvas, and I can even see the argument for no longer using this street as a street art area if they felt it was no longer representing artistic quality, but suddenly painting and starting over is at best insensitive and at worst a cold and aggressive judgement on the artists currently using the space.
Of course the blue has not lasted. It seems minutes after the work was completed the first street artists were back to claim this new canvas, and I’m sure that within the week it will be teaming with life once more. You can already see some of the new emerging pieces here at invurt.com. And this feels so very right. Really I hope that every inch of the “empty nursery blue” is coated in new work so that the ever changing energy of the form remains in tact. And I hope that Doyle also wants this outcome.
What are your feelings? How do we decide one piece of street art has a greater artistic worth and merit than another? and what does this manner of assessment do to the form?
Here are some other street artists I love at the moment!
Boe & Irony