Defaced but not forgotten: Melbourne murals 30 years on

The recent reimagining of two iconic murals painted in Melbourne in the 1980s and eventually defaced, signifies the importance of their messages both then and now.

Ephemeral by nature, street art may be tagged over, demolished or simply fade with time. We might notice a particular piece on our daily commute, or when we walk around the neighbourhood. There’s no telling how long a work will remain intact, but the blow is often delivered when it doesn’t appear as we remember it.

In 1984 New York-based artist Keith Haring flew to Australia for a two-week visit that left an indelible mark on the local art scene. During that time he painted two murals in Melbourne, one in Collingwood, and the second on the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) water wall. The latter was short-lived, lasting only two weeks before a brick was was thrown through the centre, shattering a panel depicting a child’s birth. Theories for its destruction include homophobia – Haring was an out gay artist – cultural appropriation, or an aversion to the birth scene.

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