There was a time when Perth’s CBD seemed devoid of colour, and many of its streets lay lifeless after a certain hour.
However, thanks to efforts by the City of Perth and a newly flourishing street art scene, the buzz is back. There are now more than 200 commissioned works by local and international artists scattered around the city, and it’s fair to say that Western Australia’s capital now boasts some of the most amazing public art in the country.
Here are ten of the best pieces of Perth street art to check out. You’ll see many of them on the plethora of walking tours that operate in the CBD.
Fondly known locally as ‘the paperclip’, Spanda is the unmissable 29-metre-high sculpture located on The Landing at Elizabeth Quay. The artwork by West Australian-born, internationally renowned artist Christian de Vietri was created to welcome visitors to the redeveloped Quay precinct when it opened in 2016. Meaning ‘divine vibration’ in Sanskrit (the language of Hindu philosophy), Spanda represents ripples linking the Swan River, the land and the sky.
Also to be found at Elizabeth Quay, First Contact is the cast aluminium artwork of respected Noongar artist Laurel Nannup. Standing five metres tall, with wings outstretched, Nannup’s bird sculpture was inspired by the First People’s belief that the sailing ships of the early European settlers were the spirits of returned ancestors, which had taken the form of giant floating birds.
Hidden behind the big-name designer stores on fashionable King Street, Wolf Lane is an urban art lover’s oasis, comprising a handful of small bars, quirky cafes and some of Perth’s best street art. Gaze up at a patchwork of colour by Maya Hayuk from New York, or see the giant seahorse by Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz. Originally commissioned in 2014 by arts organisation FORM, here you’ll also find murals by local legends such as Stormie Mills and Hurben.
Connectus is a light installation suspended above a laneway in the Kings Square retail precinct. It was designed by Sydney artist Warren Langley to interact with its surrounding environment. The 110-metre ribbon of light, which represents the interconnectedness of city life, shifts subtly — from pale yellow during the day, to shades of red at night — reflecting the predominant colours of the wider Western Australian landscape. The installation can change in appearance from moment to moment depending on the conditions.
Created for the 2018 opening of Yagan Square (the vibrant entertainment hub named in honour of courageous Noongar leader, Yagan), Wirin is a striking nine-metre-high sculpture of an Aboriginal figure. Meaning ‘spirit’ in Noongar language, ‘Wirin represents the eternal sacred force of creative power that connects all life on earth’ says its sculptor, Noongar artist Lance Chadd (Tjyllyungoo). As well as a meeting place for the people of Perth, Yagan Square serves as a reminder of the city’s Indigenous heritage and culture.
Grow Your Own by Perth-born, New York-based artist James Angus, who often works on an industrial scale, is hard to miss. The bright green sculpture positioned in Forrest Place has been likened to a giant cactus and was the result of Perth’s largest ever public art commissioning a decade ago. The work was inspired by the early organic farming movement. ‘The title asks that people make a visible commitment to where they live and the other people who live there’, says Angus, whose work is held by nearly every major gallery across the country.
Stay in Forrest Place to see a sculpture of a different kind, and one that’s a hit on hot days with kids (and even adults) of all ages. Created for the precinct’s redevelopment in 2012, renowned Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s $1.3 million interactive water sculpture Water Labyrinth is a series of nine ‘rooms’, formed temporarily when jets of recycled water shoot into the air. Hein’s work often draws on the sharp angles and geometric planes of 1970s minimalism, but this installation successfully softens the hard lines of the surrounding city.
Perhaps not so well-known, Delight and Hurt Not is the name of the elegant, almost neoclassical-style ink-pen-on-ceiling artwork at the stunning City of Perth Library. A whimsical re-telling of the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest by West Australian artist Andrew Nicholls, the work incorporates 65 of the state’s threatened plant species and 12 of its endangered animals. You can view the mural from three different levels of the soaring, circular building.
Inspired by, and created for one of her favourite areas in Perth, Lorenna Grant’s The Arch was erected for the opening of the Northbridge Piazza in 2009. The metal work, a shimmering chain-like connection of angular links, is located at the intersection of Lake and James Streets. Grant, whose aim was to connect all facets of the entertainment precinct that surrounds the piazza, says ‘I’m really proud to have a work that tries to show that, with all our sharp edges, we are still trying to do the best we can, we’re still stepping out.’
Finally, be brave and venture down Pier Street laneway in the CBD’s East, where a collection of three pieces by local street artist Drew Straker, aka the ‘Muralist’ are hiding. Commissioned in 2018 by Historic Heart of Perth Inc (a not-for-profit community organisation dedicated to revitalising the city’s East End), the works take on the appearance of 3D neon lights. Straker is renowned for having pioneered this painted effect.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best pieces of Perth street art? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Bonita Grima is a Perth-based freelance travel writer with a background in television and radio production in Australia and the United Kingdom. She believes travel to be a powerful tool that can challenge, inspire, educate and encourage empathy by providing a window into the worlds of others. After years of living and exploring overseas, she is now back in Perth, rediscovering and enjoying the West Australian lifestyle and all that it offers. When not working on a story, you’ll find her at the beach, on a hiking trail, drinking great coffee, discovering what’s new about town, and dreaming up her next adventure!