Melbourne is all about the laneways, the hidden cafes and the art spaces in unnamed buildings. AT follows Walk To Art’s Bernie Alibrando to rediscover the old, and the new in the old, as she ventures out of the CBD to where the artists have gone.
Visiting Melbourne is like spending time with old friends: you know you can rely on them to give you everything you need. But at the same time you have to make the effort to make new ones. It may take a little time and energy, but you’ll find that your newfound friends will be just as loyal as the old ones.
Our Old Favourites
Hosier Lane is home to some of Melbourne’s best street art, bars and eateries. Local and international graffiti art blankets the walls of these laneways, creating a giant outdoor gallery. Andrew Mac, who has been influential in educating and supporting the street art movement in Melbourne over the past 13 years, created Citylights here in 1996. It’s Melbourne’s smallest exhibition space: 12 wall-mounted light-boxes featuring illuminated, printed artworks light up this colourful lane at night. Especially popular with wedding photographers, you can watch the brides line up to have their photos taken in Hosier Lane every Saturday afternoon!
Mac monitors graffiti traffic in Hosier Lane. It was during one of his sorties in 2005 that he founded Until Never, an indoor space for outside artists. As you wander down Hosier Lane, turn right just before MoVida, look skyward for the Until Never sign on the right, then go upstairs to the top floor. Louise, Andrew’s mother, is always there to greet you and have a chat about the exhibitors and the work. New exhibitions every month or so.
At the end of Hosier Lane lies the sister restaurant to MoVida, the imaginatively titled MoVida Next Door. It’s a little smaller, sweeter, warmer, a little more Spanish – great for two. After the gallery, before a show, it’s a cosy, comfortable spot to sip some of Spain’s finest sherries, snack on tapas and watch the world rush by.
Some New in the Old
Flinders Lane, and the laneways that run off it, are known as the heart of Melbourne’s commercial art spaces. A new restaurant is all it takes for the familiar to feel new again. Cumulus is a cloud with a silver lining. This eatery reveals Melbourne’s corporate, art and fashion scene at its finest as familiar city faces appear at the bar. Pascale Gomes-McNabb has applied her architectural experience and design flair to this semi-industrial, loft-like space to brilliant effect. Her great creative work only adds to the excellent food of her husband, head chef and business partner Andrew McConnell. You can’t book, however Jayden Ong (manager and partner) does a wonderful job of remembering your name and finding you a place in this happening restaurant. The food is designed to be shared and the menu is broken into eight sections. Don’t miss the full menu of oysters!
In the 1990s many artists occupied buildings in Flinders Lane, Centre House, and The Nicholas Building. Due to the influx of creative energy, there was a need to create fabulous coffee shops and eateries. The Nicholas Building is privately owned and offers nine levels of studios and spaces to creative individuals and small businesses. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of artistic offerings and the last hub of creative folk in Flinders Lane.
The art space of Stephen McLaughlan, a very talented, quirky art lover and dealer, is located on the eighth floor of The Nicholas Building. One of the greats in the arts, Stephen is always friendly and ready for a chat. His space also has the best view in Melbourne! The gallery is only open during the day as it relies on natural light.
Journal Canteen is a place I visit for coffee, a bruschetta or a small sweet something. It’s always buzzing and is a great fuel stop. You can sit, recaffinate and people-watch in a cosy environment.
Then, after you’ve re-fuelled, head to Blockprojects to view one of Melbourne’s hottest art spaces. Jeremy Kibbel has an unusual eye, a fashionable clientele and a great space. Blockprojects are moving and shaking in the arts scene. There’s a little bit of attitude . . . but it’s worth a visit in this beautiful building.
Cumulus // 45 Flinders Lane, www.cumulusinc.com.au (03) 9650 1445.
Stephen McLaughlan Gallery // Level 8, Room 16, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston St (cnr Flinders Lane and Swanston St), www.stephenmclaughlangallery.com.au 0407 317 323.
Journal Canteen // Shop 1, level 1, 253 Flinders Lane, (03) 9650 4399.
Blockprojects // Level 4, 289 Flinders Lane, Block Projects (03) 9662 9148.
GERTRUDE STREET & SURROUNDS: FITZROY
Catch the 112 Tram from Collins Street and alight at Gertrude Street, a ten-minute tram ride or 15-minute walk away. I’ve spent a lot of time in both Brooklyn and Fitzroy, and Gertrude Street, with its quirky strip offering old architecture, public housing, non-profit art spaces, wine bars, pubs and great eateries, reminds me of that über-cool New York neighbourhood of Williamsburg.
Cutler & Co is the new baby at the Nicholson Street end of Gertrude. Until now this end of the strip was untouched and a little rough around the edges, but the only word I can find to describe this bar/dining room is: sexy. Both elegance and Melbourne cool at its best, it’s painted in a muted black – and it’s all black. It’s intimate, expensive, and has the same owner as Cumulus.
Once you go over Brunswick Street, past the public housing, you’ll hit the middle of Gertrude Street. Pop into Seventh, a well-run, non-profit exhibition space operated by contemporary Melbourne artists. It offers a platform for experimentation and gives exposure to diverse and dynamic art practices. The art’s not always good, but it’s not always bad either – and it will certainly make you think.
Around the corner in George Street, near Gertrude, is Lamington Drive, a gallery that champions funky Gen-Y illustration art. The walls are made of cardboard and most of the work has been drawn on notepaper – very trendy. I love Kat Macleod’s work; delicate, intimate and well executed.
Next-door is Third Drawer Down, an art gallery store without an exhibition space. It’s fun and you could find a great quirky gift there. I love the tea towels that are editioned and also the hankies that are designed by established Melbourne artists like Rosslynd Piggott. Check out Rosslynd’s handkerchief – it’s a delicious, pink confection.
On the other side of George Street is The Brooklyn Arts Hotel. Don’t expect plasma screens; think Bloomsbury. You step out of the ’hood into another world of clutter, high ceilings and lemon myrtle tea – a place to stay that’s like home. Maggie, the hotel’s proprietor, is a delight. The hotel has been operating since 1901 and is truly a gem.
Smith Street, running perpendicular to Gertrude, is the new cool kid on the Melbourne block and where you’ll discover the two newest and brightest stars in the ’hood. Monsieur Truffe offers fair trade coffee, chocolate to die for, freshly baked croissants and everything French! And you can’t leave Melbourne without eating at Gigibaba: modern Turkish with a clean twist. Sit at the small bar, drink wine from 300ml or 500ml beakers (the new way to serve wine in Melbourne) and eat from small plates of kingfish, broad beans or smoked eggplant. Plentiful, clean tastes. Go with someone you love or wish to love. You can’t book.
Cutler & Co // 55-57 Gertrude St, www.cutlerandco.com.au (03) 9419 4888.
Seventh // 155 Gertrude St, www.seventhgallery.org
Lamington Drive // near cnr Gertrude & George St, www.lamingtondrive.com (03) 8060 9745.
Third Drawer Down // 99 George St, www.thirddrawerdown.com (03) 9534 4088.
The Brooklyn Arts Hotel // 48-50 George St, www.brooklynartshotel.com (03) 9419 9328.
Monsieur Truffe // 90 Smith St, monsieurtruffechocolate.com 0413 917 576.
Gigibaba // 102 Smith St, (03) 9486 0345.
BEYOND GERTRUDE STREET: COLLINGWOOD
My dear friend who is an arts’ writer and academic picked me up from my Walk To Art studio in Brunswick Street one day and took me to the most beautiful part of Collingwood: The Abbotsford Convent Foundation. It’s fast becoming an important arts, educational and cultural precinct in Melbourne, just four klicks from the CBD. There are events, workshops and markets: the Makers’ Market, The Shirt and Skirt Market, and The Slow Food Farmers’ Market all merit viewing.
There are two great finds here. The first is Philip Stokes, a glass artist right in the historic Convent grounds. Visitors are welcomed to the studio and gallery to browse and enjoy. You can even watch the artist in action.
The second is the House of Refreshment: old school food and old school coffee in an old school environment with old school Italian humour. Handsome owner Steve will have you in his world in no time. There’s no soy or skinny milk, no tea, and no light beer. There’s freshly squeezed orange juice, sandwiches (ham and cheese, or ham, or cheese) and sexual healings with Judith, Wendy and Steve on Thursdays.
Abbotsford Convent Foundation // 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford, www.abbotsfordconvent.com.au (03) 9415 3600.
Philip Stokes Glass Studio // Mercator Building, 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford, www.philipstokesstudioglass.com.au (03) 9415 7959
House of Refreshment // First Floor Abbotsford Convent, www.facebook.com/handsomesteveshouseofrefreshment
*Ed’s Note: All of these images were taken using a fascinating TTV (through-the-viewfinder) method. As photographer Dirk Spennemann explains: “I use two cameras joined by a light-proof tube — a bottom camera that shows the image in its ancient viewfinder, and a newer top camera that records the image.” check out more of Dirk’s work at www.ausphoto.net