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Street art in Perth & some truly odd sculptures

Move over Melbourne – the street art in Perth is next level. This city is also littered with public monuments that have odd stories behind them. Read on to find out more about the public art in Perth – both the noteworthy and the not-worthy.

Mural of a Numbat in Fremantle by artist ROA. There's a lot of cool street art in Perth.
A Numbat in Fremantle, by Belgian street artist ROA.

When you think of urban art in Australia, Melbourne tends to spring to mind.

However, other cities and towns across the country have been seriously upping their game, painting murals on walls, pavement and giant silos.

There’s even a whole town in WA, filled with painted fibre-glass sheep.

If there’s one place in particular that’s been flying under the radar when it comes to its street art scene, it’s Perth.

However, this hasn’t always been the case.

Although the street art in Perth is generally next level, some questionable decisions in the name of art have been made over the years.

This has led to a weird juxtaposition of some fantastic urban murals, sometimes right next to well… you can only describe them as public monstrosities.

However, most are quite lovely and just have interesting stories behind them.

Others are possibly not quite worth the exorbitant price tag that came with commission and installation.

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Street art in Perth of Loki on a Celebrations in Carlisle.
Some fun street art in Carlisle.

Street art in Perth & other odd public art

Let’s ease ourselves into proceedings.

Here are some truly fantastic pieces of art to be found around the city – from the urban art in Perth to some truly cool sculptures.

First, some neat street art in Perth

A mural of Alfred Hitchcock on the Cygnet Theatre in Como.
Hitchcock, outside the Cygnet Cinema in Como.

Alfred Hitchcock on the Cygnet Theatre in Como

If you’re into art deco or arthouse cinemas in general, you’ll love the Grand Cygnet Cinema.

The cinema is located in Como and if you wander around to the left, you’ll find film legend Alfred Hitchcock staring back at you – a 2013 work by American street artist Nils Westergard.

There’s also a mural nearby by Singaporean artist Josh Gomes, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Close up of the Alfred Hitchcock mural.
He’s ready for his close-up.
The Cygnet Theatre in Como.
The very cute and very pink cinema.

The cinema itself was designed by architect William T. Leighton, built by local identity James Stiles and opened in 1938.

To explore the inside of this fabulous cinema (I really, really love the fact that it’s pink) and maybe even catch a film, check out its program.

For more, ogle its twin, the Windsor in Nedlands.

16 Preston Street, Como

Street art in Northbridge, of a figure holding a rock head. I don't know how else to explain this picture.
Aec’s ‘Memory of the Land’ on the Central Institute of Technology. It’s worth walking around to take in the entire piece, super trippy.

All the street art in Northbridge

There are a few suburbs in Perth that support an impressive amount of street art – Fremantle, Subiaco and the city centre, too.

Some of the best is in Northbridge, right near the city centre.

It’s well-worth taking a wander around to see what you can find, particularly on your way into the city.

If you want specifics, check out other street art in Northbridge.

A work by Straker of some famous cinema cars at a drive-in, including the DeLorean time machine and Herbie.
This work is by Perth artist Drew Straker, also known as ‘The Muralist’.

Celebrations in Carlisle

There’s a ‘Celebrations’ bottle-o in Carlisle which is probably the most colourful in the business.

It’s adorned with three works by Straker – the very cool mural in the picture above, a giant octopus and some really cute penguins, jumping about here and there.

This is a bit of a step away from Straker’s usual work, which uses a distinctive ‘neon glow’ technique.

I often see his pieces popping up in Melbourne, the mecca for all street artists in this country.

This Celebrations has a pretty impressive collection of craft beer, so pop in for a longneck or two if all this hunting for street art has you working up a bit of a thirst.

2 Wright St, Kewdale

Street art in Fremantle of a Kraken.

The Kraken in Fremantle

This Kraken (or Octopus – Kraken sounds far more dramatic) is by British artist Phlegm and can be seen as you enter Fremantle.

It’s very hard to photograph in full!

The work is just down the road from the rainbow shipping containers, so you can tick off two sights in very quick succession.

Fremantle itself is a very colourful part of the city

If you’re in the area and want to see something quite spectacular, check out the 78 metre fresco on the exterior of East West Design. The detail on this work is out of this world.

The Kraken – WW2 Naval Store on Queen Victoria St, Fremantle

The rainbow sea containers in Fremantle.

Rainbow Sea Container in Fremantle

You may have seen this sculpture of Marcus Canning’s before, somewhere on the Internet.

It’s bright and cheery, and at 9 metres high and 19 metres long, it kinda stands out.

The containers sit at the entrance to North Freo.

Side on view of the rainbow sea containers in Fremantle.
First views as we walk up from the car park.

There’s something just… really nice about this sculpture, which I guess would probably be the rainbow colouring.

Seeing them in the flesh, or even just pictures of them, puts a smile on my dial.

21 Beach Street, Fremantle

The Dingo Flour logo in Perth.
The Dingo Flour Sign can be found on an old mill.

Dingo Flour Sign in Fremantle

Less street art in Perth – more an iconic landmark.

The “Dingo Flour Sign” has been towering over the Stirling Highway for almost eighty years now and is a source of pride among many locals.

There is a rumour that the dingo is the work of Australian businessman and convicted criminal Alan Bond, who was a sign writer in his youth.

Not true. It’s the work of artist Les Nash. He painted it on the side of the mill for £40 in 1940.

Close up of the Dingo Flour logo, historic street art in Perth.
Thank you clouds, for being perth-ect the day I took this photo.

His work was short-lived – the sign had to be painted over during World War II (in 1943) as a precaution against enemy attack.

Luckily, the original design remained visible under the paint and it was re-created by Fred Parnell in 1946.

The heritage-listed flour mill is still running to this day, known as Great Southern Flour Mills Ltd (it’s never been called Dingo flour, oddly!).

Located on the Stirling Highway, between Perth and Fremantle.

The Migration at Luna Palace Cinema

Once you begin to immerse yourself into the Australian street art scene, you’ll see the same names popping up again and again.

You’ll even learn to recognise the work of certain artists as you walk around cities.

Fintan Magee is one such muralist. His work is phenomenal in itself and often created on a massive scale.

He contributed a mural to the first ever silo art trail in Victoria. Many of his works feature on large buildings around the world.

This monumental piece can be found on Luna Palace Cinemas in Leederville.

Known as “The Migration”, it draws on Perth’s own identity as a city built on immigration.

It reminds me a lot of his work “Housing Bubble”, which can be found in the suburb of Enmore in Sydney.

155 Oxford Street, Leederville

Looking down the street towards 'The Adnate' in Perth, with a massive mural by Matt Adnate,

The Adnate Hotel

The Art Series Hotels are a, well, series of hotels that pay homage to artists. The hotels are named after the artist they celebrate and their works are featured extensively throughout the building.

The Adnate holds a focus on renowned street artist Matt Adnate. Known for his towering multicultural portraits (which you can find throughout Melbourne), the building features a massive mural, spanning 25 storeys.

Go marvel at this mural if you’re in Perth… or even stay the night!

900 Hay Street, Perth

Orobus mural in Perth city by ROA.

Orobus mural in the city centre

There is some super dynamic art in Perth’s CBD – giant murals and brightly coloured laneways.

One of my favourite works is this one by Belgian artist ROA, of a snake eating its own tail… an Orobus.

Unfortunately, the bottom of the work has been tagged, as of early 2019. Hopefully it either has or will get cleaned up but, probably not.

Here’s some more art you can find in the city centre of Perth.

Cnr Wellington St & Milligan St, Perth City

First Contact, by Laurel Nannup, is located in Elizabeth Quay in Perth.

First Contact

This spectacular 5-metre sculpture by Noongar artist Laurel Nannup depicts the arrival of European settlers to Perth.

The distant sailing ships on the horizon were thought to be giant floating birds. The Noongar people believed it was past ancestors returning from sea.

Elizabeth Quay is a newly developed area of Perth and well worth exploring. There’s some beautiful and baffling art here.

First Contact is beautiful. Now, prepare to be baffled.

Elizabeth Quay, The Esplanade, Perth

Grow your Own, or 'the Cactus' in Perth.
Ready to be wowed by Perth’s truly weird public art?

Somewhat strange Perth art & sculptures

Now that we’ve spent some time talking up the street art in Perth, it’s time to head on a downward trajectory and turn to some truly questionable pieces.

Many are fine works of art, but the public perception of them is what’s made them controversial or interesting.

Others are just plain weird, hence their inclusion on this list.

I am delighted by each and every one of them.

The Totem sculpture in Perth.
The robotic, laser shooting Totem.

Totem

Nicknaming weird sculptures is a Perth thing, as you’ll continue to see throughout this portion of the post.

This sculpture is officially known as ‘Totem’.

The city of Perth has elected to refer to it as ‘The Corn Cob’, for reasons that should be obvious when you look at the thing.

Geoffrey Drake-Brockman’s sculpture is 9 metres high and is a robotic artwork that can sense pedestrian movement in the vicinity.

The Totem sculpture in Perth.

I don’t recall seeing anything out of the ordinary when I visited, but there was only two of us in the area.

Maybe you need more people. Maybe it just doesn’t work. Possibly, I’m just not very observant.

Apparently it projects laser beams on the side of the Arena at night. Everyone knows lasers are cool.

Perth Arena

Gumnut Babies sculpture in Perth.

Gumnut Babies

Here we have the beloved creations of Australian author May Gibbs, immortalised in bronze by artist Claire Bailey in 2003.

They sit happily together in Stirling Gardens, surrounded by greenery and supposedly delighting any children who come across them on trips to the park.

Then tragedy strikes in 2015.

Snugglepot-or-Cuddlepie (it’s not specified who is who) is stolen in the night, by well-prepared thieves who cut through the steel anchors that once secured the statue to the ground.

The other Snugglepot-or-Cuddlepie is left bereft, to continue on without its Gumnut brother.

Don’t worry – this story has a happy ending.

Gumnut Babies sculpture in Perth.
Watch out froggy, I think it wants to eat you.

Claire Bailey is commissioned to make another Gumnut Baby and the new Snugglepot-or-Cuddlepie is installed in the park.

All’s well that ends well.

Stirling Gardens, Barrack Street

the cactus perth

Grow your Own

Colloquially known as “Perth Cactus”, the erection of this statue in Forrest Place has not been well-received, mostly due to the accompanying price tag of $1 million.

The work is the result of an international sculpture competition known as ‘Situate’, aiming to brighten up the area near Perth Train Station.

Note the presence of questionable art next to a train station. We’ll return to this later.

Grow your Own or the Cactus in Perth, close up.
Facing the Cactus straight on.

A seagull sitting on the poo encrusted top of the Cactus.
Okay, the amount of bird poop on top of this statue is quite a bit amusing… take better care of your expensive things, Perth!

This sculpture is apparently about the growth of art and ideas, as well as your own local roots. That’s what artist James Angus says, anyway.

Well. Cacti have roots – right?

Perth Cactus even has its own Twitter feed, which I feel sums up the public reception of the artwork quite well.

Forrest Place, Perth CBD

Spanda in Elizabeth Quay, Perth.
Spanda is unmissable.

Spanda

I am being a bit mean placing Spanda on this list, but then I am in the mood to be critical.

It’s a great piece of sculpture, designed by Christian de Vietri and standing 29 metres tall.

Spanda is intended to be inclusive, but apparently it is also meant to represent about ten million other things, as well.

Personally, I’m a fan of keeping it simple when it comes to art. Just let the thing do what it says on the box.

Anyway. This steel and carbon fibre sculpture came with the price tag of $1.3 million, outstripping even the Perth Cactus.

Oh and its nickname… can you guess? Why, the ‘paperclip’, of course!

One things I do like and a disappointment for the selfie crew – it’s near impossible to photograph yourself in the thing. Unless you have a giant arm.

You’d have to take a photo from under your chin, quite possibly the most unflattering angle in the world.

Elizabeth Quay

Eliza the statue, wearing a jersey and holding a sign that says 'Happy Birthday 8 Casper.'
Eliza is the coolest.

Eliza

To be fair, there’s nothing really controversial about this statue, known as Eliza.

It’s what people do to her that’s quite odd, but undeniably cool.

Despite her being placed in the Swan River, Perthlings make it their mission to dress Eliza up, each and every opportunity they get.

Eliza rarely sports the same thing twice.

She’s worn dresses, t-shirts, outlandish hats and Santa outfits. She’ll often carry signs – celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and school events.

Surely there’s been a proposal or two.

Eliza is the work of local artist Tony Jones, unveiled in 2007 to commemorate the old Crawley Baths – a prominent landmark in Perth for a large chunk of the 1900’s.

Matilda Bay, Swan River

A giant rock in a shopping centre.
A truly bizarre piece of public art in Morley.

Gina Rinehart’s Poetry Rock

Gine Rinehart is Australia’s richest person, with the mining magnate claiming a net worth of around $9 billion USD.

Having lots of money is cool, sure. However, there are lots of things that money can’t buy, such as style.

It doesn’t make you any good at poetry, either.

Yet, what do the sickeningly rich care? Lack of skill has not stopped Rinehart from penning a ballad entitled “Our Future” and affixing it to a 30-tonne boulder in Morley.

This monument to iron ore and mining in general, has a go at the Federal Government for not supporting the resource industry and hiking taxes.

The rock from the other side.
Art is weird and some people have WAY too much money..
Close up of the plague with Gina Rinehart's 'poem'.
Gina Rinehart’s poem.

I was going to put the poem directly into this post, but I try to only stick good pieces of writing on my blog.

You can read it in full here.

Coventry Square Markets in Morley

Pink crepe myrtle flowers framing the Bell tower.

The Swan Bell Tower

I feel like I give the Bell Tower a lot of crap in every post I write about Perth.

I also feel this is somewhat deserved.

Another frighteningly expensive public landmark, the Bell Tower cost $5.5 million to erect in 1999.

The tower was intended to herald in the new millennium and house the hand-me-down bells from St-Martins-in-the-Fields Church in London.

They got a sparkling new set. Perth got the rejects.

The design has never been popular and most locals were bemused as to why the Bell Tower was needed in the first place.

At the very least, it seems to fit into the area of Elizabeth Quay a bit more seamlessly, after redevelopment and the inclusion of several other loud and expensive sculptures.

Barrack Square, Riverside Dr, Perth

Ascalon sculpture by Marcus Canning and Christian de Vietri in Perth.

Ascalon

In all honesty, this 2011 work of art created by Marcus Canning and Christian de Vietri is in my opinion, gorgeous.

However, it’s been placed on this list due to the unfortunate nicknames gifted to it by Perth locals, the nicest of which is “The Jizz”.

I’m not going to name any others, because I like to keep things at least PG on this blog. Use your imagination and don’t be afraid to get down into the gutter.

Anyway, funnily enough it’s not meant to represent semen – rather, it was commissioned to a “St George and the Dragon” theme.

‘Ascalon’ in actual fact, is the name of the lance St George used to slay the dragon.

You can find this 18 metre tall sculpture within the grounds of St George’s Cathedral.

St Georges Terrace, Perth.

The boy side of the 'Face of the Community'.
The adolescent boy chosen as a ‘face of the community’.

The Face of the Community

I’ve saved the best for last. Which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, so the mention is purely commemorative.

This piece of public art is probably the strangest in Perth, narrowly beating Gina Rinehart’s Rock, because at the end of the day… it’s just a rock.

This terrifying work is known as The Face of the Community and you can find it at Cockburn Train Station.

Many people mistake these installations for the faces of missing people, or Australia’s most wanted. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Alarmingly, this piece of public art was made by MORPHING THE FACES OF 120 DIFFERENT CITIZENS OF THE AREA INTO EACH OTHER.

Yes, that’s right – in 2006 photos of local residents of Cockburn are digitally taken, to represent users of public transport. Then, they are super-imposed upon each other.

Well I suppose, digital photographic technology is in its infancy at this time.

Interpretive panel explaining how this awesome digital imaging of the mid-noughties was rendered.
There’s an information board at the station explaining how this public art was made. It doesn’t quite adequately explain the ‘why’ of the situation.

We’re left with a male and female face, each intending to resemble members of the local community.

The young to pre-adolescent boy picture is… well, it’s okay. His gaze is blank and emotionless, like that of a murderer, but he’s in pretty good nick.

The middle-aged to possibly elderly woman however, has certainly seen better days.

Weathered face of the community female version.
Age will not wither her, but the relentless Western Australian sun will weather her.
The face of the Community at Cockburn Station.
What’s the buzz with train stations in Perth and weird art?

There was a whole Facebook Page dedicated to removing the faces from Cockburn Station.

At the time of writing, it had close to 10,000 “likes”. Eventually, they got their wish.

Formerly at Cockburn Train Station

Elizabeth Quay, with added Spanda.
One last look at Perth and Spanda.

Final thoughts on Perth’s public art

There you have it – some of the best street art in Perth and some more questionable sculptures, littered around the city.

I have to say, I had an exceptionally great time writing this post and feel that in a really twisted way, it’s my love letter to Perth.

The city has more heart than many others in Australia, although many would try to convince you otherwise. They’re very wrong.

Perth, you’re the best (more than okay, in fact). Don’t ever change.

So there you have it – a mix of some of the best street art in Perth and too, the most questionable and controversial public art. Any favourites you’d like to add to this list?

Heading to Perth? Pin this post for future reference!

Perth has some really great public art. However, #Perth also has some truly questionable sculptures littered around the city. Read on to find out where to find the best street art in Perth and the stories behind some of its more outlandish pieces. / #PerthisOkay / #OneDayinWA / Things to do in Perth / Things to do in Western Australia / #WesternAustralia / #SeeAustralia / Art in Australia / Australian Culture /

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