Weaving through a revitalised cool neighbourhood, the Dunedin Street Art Trail is a must-do attraction for curious wanderers visiting Dunedin, New Zealand.
Despite being recognised as a street art blogger, I didn’t come to New Zealand expecting to find urban art. And yet, during our first New Zealand road trip I was gobsmacked by the vibrant street art scene in post-earthquake Christchurch.
Then, whilst planning our second New Zealand trip the following year, I learned about the growing amount of extraordinary street art in Dunedin, a city located 360 kilometres south from Christchurch. Obviously, I had to see with my own eyes what the fuzz was all about.
Follow the Dunedin Street Art Trail with the free street art map
And so, we roamed the desolate streets of Dunedin in search of street art a few months later. We picked up a free copy of the Dunedin street art map at the i-SITE Visitor Centre, but you could also view it online via the Dunedin Street Art website.
Exploring the lesser-trodden parts of this lively student city on the self-guided Dunedin Street Art Trail, I was in my element. I mean: an abundance of top-notch street art amongst monumental historical buildings, all with a great story to tell. What more could a girl possibly ask for, right?!
The majority of the Dunedin murals is located in the heritage Warehouse Precinct. Once one of the main hubs for trade and commerce in New Zealand, it’s now becoming Dunedin’s new art hub. With its hipster cafés situated amongst rejuvenated grand factories and warehouses, you can sense this is an up-and-coming neighbourhood.
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Featured artists in the Dunedin Street Art Trail
The street art route currently comprises over 30 artworks by some of the world’s finest muralists. Here are some of my personal highlights, listed by artist name and country of origin.
Belgian street artist ROA is one of my top favourite muralists. Known for his large monochrome paintings of animals, ROA was the first artist to be part of the street art trail in Dunedin.
You can find his larger-than-life tuatara, an endangered reptile endemic to New Zealand, at 7 Bath Street.
Phlegm (United Kingdom)
Sheffield-based illustrator Phlegm is yet another one of my favourite street artists. Coincidentally, his murals, often depicting his signature fantasy creatures, are also always painted in black and white. Or at least so I thought. Because Phlegm has actually created his first-ever colour works in Dunedin. (As far as I know.)
Well, a modest amount of colour that is.
The artwork you see above was the second commission in the city-wide street art project and can be found at 76 Vogel Street. It represents waka, Māori water vessels, disappearing into a fish’s mouth. Tapping into local history, the fish is a reference to the Japanese submarine that was spotted in the Otago Harbour during WWII.
While the mural above already incorporates some colour, the thin wash of blue paint is nothing compared to the colourful birds in Song Bird Pipe Organ below. (To be found on 12 Manse Street.) Playing an unusual organ, Phlegm’s mythical creature releases brightly painted New Zealand birds.
In addition to the more unusual Phlegm murals using (hints of) colour, here are two more works by him in Dunedin in his characteristic monochrome-style.
Dal East (China)
It seems to be the main theme of the highlighted artworks so far: black and white depictions of animals. However, this mural of Dal East is the last one to follow this trend here!
Using his iconic style, Dal East’s depiction of the now extinct New Zealand Haast Eagle seems to be made out of pieces of rubber and shards of metal. This mural at 25 Stafford Street is possibly my favourite of the Dunedin Street Art Trail. However, with so many great urban artworks around, it’s difficult to choose of course.
I’ve been in love with Dal East’s work from the first moment I set eyes on one of his magnificent murals in East London. However, unlike ROA and Phlegm I don’t often see his works overseas. The only other place outside of London, was in the south of Spain, as part of the impressive MAUS Málaga street art project.
Pixel Pancho (Italy)
And now time for some colour!
The Italian graffiti and street artist Pixel Pancho is one of the most impressive artists I’ve ever come across. Sadly, I’ve only ever seen his works in East London where he created some amazing murals over the summer of 2014. However, none of them were as grand or large as the one you see below.
Drawing inspiration from famous painters such as Salvador Dalí, the works of Pixel Pancho feature robot-like creatures. To me, they often suggest a sense of nostalgia. Echoing Pinocchio’s long-held wish, the near humanlike figures seem to dream for a place in the world. But that’s just my personal interpretation, of course.
Phlegm & Pixel Pancho collaboration
As a very special treat, you can find an amazing collaborative mural by Pixel Panco and Phlegm on 5 Stafford Street.
Natalia Rak (Poland)
Possibly the most colourful mural in this collection, this was my first introduction with the striking work of Polish street artist Natalia Rak. The bold work Love is in the Air can be found at the top of the building at 48 Bond Street.
Be Free (Australia)
Melbourne-based artist Be Free was another great discovery for me. While we visited some great street art hotspots in Melbourne, we missed her plentiful paste-ups and painted works there. However, I loved seeing her little cheeky girls playing and having fun in the streets of Dunedin. You can find the following two murals (the second one is split in two parts) can be found at at 106 Bond Street.
Faith47 (South Africa)
I think it’s fair to say that Faith47 is one of the biggest and most respected muralists out there. Not surprisingly, you can find her epic works all over the work. And I’ve been lucky to see her paintings in several cities such as London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Málaga and Dunedin of course.
Personally, what attracts me most to her paintings is the sense of tranquillity her stately portrayals express. This is emphasised by the earthly colours she uses for her paintings.
The romantic embrace pictured in her mural 2500 – 2450 BC is part of her ongoing world-wide project 7.83hz Human Resonance Frequency. Often referring to dates of ancient wars, the series zoom in raw intimacy between human beings.
Fintan Magee (Australia)
Known for his gigantic murals, Fintan Magee painted his largest work to date at 149 Rattray Street in Dunedin.
Not only does his Chasing the Thin White Cloud feature three local children, but I suspect the title is also a reference to local culture. I haven’t found confirmation for this, but I think it’s a variation on the Māori name for New Zealand, Aotearoa, meaning ‘land of the long white cloud’.
This was the first time I saw a painting by Valencia-based artist Hyuro in real life. Her murals regularly depict individuals, but in a very intriguing way. They either zoom in, or alternatively, zoom out drastically, never showing the faces of her characters.
But sometimes Hyuro’s works showcase only a singular clothing item. And as far as I can tell, these are always dresses. Indeed, her Unoccupied, painted on the vacant building at 76 Vogel Street in Dunedin’s Warehouse Precinct, shows a suspended dress. Curiously enough, the building has had only three occupants during its approximately 130-year long history. Due to the ambitious redevelopment of the area, I don’t think this will last much longer.
I strongly believe that the city of Dunedin is a great contender for the title of the street art capital of New Zealand. What do you think after seeing this small collection of artworks from Dunedin’s outdoor art gallery?
Discover more surprising street art travel destinations here:
- Christchurch Street Art: Art with a Heart
- Málaga Street Art Project: MAUS
- Marseille Street Art
- Discover the Singapore Street Art Scene
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