Melburnians put their hands in the air for McEwans cult icon

CoM-CG-Gotcha-photo-by-Tobias-Titz.jpgA new City of Melbourne exhibition will take Melburnians on a trip down memory lane, with the iconic celebrity handprints from Bourke Street making their triumphant return to the city.  

Melburnians and visitors can see 40 of these prints at the GOTCHA! exhibition, alongside the stories of the celebrities who made them. Celebrity handprints include:

  • Evonne Goolagong? (tennis champion)
  • Jamie Redfern (singer?)
  • Kamahl (singer)
  • Merv Hughes (cricketer)
  • Colleen Hewett (singer)
  • Heather McKay (squash champion)
  • John Bertrand (America’s Cup winner)
  • Paul Cronin (actor)
  • Johnny Letts (Melbourne Cup-winning jockey)

“We’re excited to host GOTCHA! – which is set to draw more people into the city, with a display of quirky yet iconic city history at Town Hall’s own City Gallery,” said Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

“Attendees can literally feel our city’s history by holding their hands against the prints of beloved celebrities, who were immortalised at the heights of their careers.”

“Compare your hand with the likes of Evonne Goolagong, who cemented her mark just after her momentous Wimbledon win in 1971, and John Bertrand, who won the America’s Cup in 1983,” said the Lord Mayor.

McEwans hardware store, which became a big part of the modern Bunnings, was a household name in the 1970s and 80s. It was a must-visit, with celebrity handprints marking the entrance to the Bourke Street store.   

As Melburnians crossed the threshold of the do-it-yourself superstore, they’d find the mark of actors, musicians, sportspeople, writers, dancers, politicians, an astronaut, a racehorse, and even a talented opera-singing dog.  

The exhibition has been curated by author and historian Robyn Annear, who has written extensively about Melbourne and Victoria’s history. Her books include BearbrassA City Lost & Found (Whelan the Wrecker’s Melbourne)Adrift in Melbourne and Corners of Melbourne. This is the fourth exhibition she has curated for City Gallery.

“McEwans was a Melbourne institution in the 1970s and 80s and people flocked to the city store for their weekend projects. This exhibition shines a light on what our city was like and it is so appropriate that these prints should find a home at Melbourne Town Hall,” said curator Robyn Annear.

“The idea of celebrity is ephemeral, yet here we have these prints set in concrete which is glorious. I hope people will try their hands for size against the celebrity prints, as Bourke Street shoppers used to do with the Lionel Rose fist prints.”

GOTCHA! is on display at City Gallery – Melbourne Town Hall until Friday 16 August 2024. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Installation view of GOTCHA! – photo by Tobias Titz