A street artist has been captured painting over a mural paying tribute to Australian women killed since the start of 2023, sparking outrage among advocates and supporters.
The mural, plastered on Melbourne’s famous Hosier Lane, depicts some of the almost 80 women killed in the past 14 months, and the locations they died around Australia.
It shows polaroid-style pictures of the women scattered across a white map of Australia as well as statistics compiled by The RED HEART Campaign – an ongoing memorial project tracking the known women and children killed in acts of gendered violence.
The mural was painted on International Women’s Day, March 8; and just 10 days later, a graffiti artist was filmed spraying paint over the women’s faces.
In a video posted by the campaign, the words “13 WOLF 69” can be seen painted over the mural as well as the beginning of a large orange text covering the southeast corner of the map.
The video pans slowly to capture the artist still spraying the wall with orange paint – what seem to be the finishing touches to the large piece that stretches for metres toward Flinders Street.
“That’s more important, that’s lovely,” someone can be heard saying in the footage.
“That’s not even art!”
Campaign founder and News Corp journalist Sherele Moody shared the video, captioning it as an example of “when murdered women are erased for a second time”.
The mural depicted the faces of killed women. Picture: Facebook.Supporters were outraged to see it being covered. Picture: Facebook.
“The dude could have moved his scribble a few feet and not painted over the faces of murdered women,” she added.
“The Lane is pretty big – there’s room for all of us!”
News.com.au has reached out to Ms Moody for comment.
Immediately, supporters of the campaign reacted in disgust to the “selfish, heartless artist”, with many saying the disregard for the mural really “hurts”.
“What the actual f,” one woman wrote.
“This is disgusting. This is about murdered women and a memorial. When did we become so disrespectful.”
Some questioned whether the artist was even aware of what he had done or was partially covering. Others said it was the harsh nature of Melbourne’s internationally renowned street art culture.
The artist was filmed spraying his own piece. Picture: Facebook.People can be heard sarcastically saying it was “important” work. Picture: Facebook.
Street art is a unique and quintessential part of Melbourne’s urban culture, and Hosier Lane is arguably the most famous painted laneway in the city.
With the rise of street art, the City of Melbourne developed a Graffiti Management Plan to differentiate between illegal tags and works of street art.
In the plan, the council says its approach to graffiti management is to “remove illegal graffiti and street art quickly and embrace legal graffiti and street art”.
Graffiti, according to the plan is “writing or drawings scribbles, scratched or sprayed on a wall or other surface in a public place”.
Street art, on the other hand “is a 2-dimensional, visual art form presented on surfaces in public places” – this includes murals and graffiti.
Hosier Lane is a tourist hot spot.
For a graffiti or street art to be “legal” an artist must seek permission from the property owner or city council, including sharing images of the design and location – if they do not, it will be considered illegal and removed.
However, Hosier Lane has long been considered a free space for street art, meaning anyone can put their creative mark on the street without gaining permission.
Further, there are no rules on what works can or should remain – even if it does depict or point to an important cause – or what must be covered up. That said council does not allow advertising in the lane.
In 2020 the lane was bombed by a gang of vandals carrying fire hydrants loaded with paint, a move condemned by Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp as “not in keeping with the spirit of Hosier Lane”.
“The very nature of street art is that it’s temporary, ephemeral and forever changing,” she tweeted.
Melbourne is the street art capital of Australia. The very nature of street art is that it’s temporary, ephemeral and forever changing. We’re aware that a group of vandals covered Hosier Lane with paint. This is unacceptable and is not in keeping with the spirit of Hosier Lane. pic.twitter.com/gJRE2ssSuy
— Sally Capp – Lord Mayor of Melbourne (@LordMayorMelb) February 10, 2020
A City of Melbourne spokesperson echoed the Cr Capp’s sentiments when asked about this incident and the outrage over the artist partially covering the mural.
“Street art is an inherently ephemeral art form and may last a few days to a few weeks, with some works lasting longer,” the spokesperson said in a statement to news.com.au.
Vandals ‘obliterate’ iconic Melbourne laneWhy ‘vandals’ destroyed Hosier Lane
“This is what makes each visit a unique experience.”
They said the “iconic” lane has been “a defacto space for street art for more than 20 years” and attracts up to a million visitors each year.