Melbourne is a cultural hub within Australia, and as such, is home to more than a few world-class art galleries. Sure, you have the spectacular National Gallery of Victoria (both the International and Australian versions), but there are numerous smaller galleries also offering up the chance to see some of the world’s best touring exhibitions and artworks, and to uncover exciting new and established local talents. Best of all, many provide free entry, making them perfect for a culturally-inclined day out in the city.
Here are just a few of the best galleries in Melbourne to visit once you’ve already ticked off NGV.
Heide Museum of Modern Art
One of the most exciting modern art galleries in Melbourne, Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen has been an ode to Australian modernism since it was established by John and Sunday Reed in 1934. Back then, the couple’s renovated farmhouse attracted some of the biggest names in Australian art and culture, including Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan, and earned the gallery a reputation for promoting living contemporary artists. The gallery today stretches over three buildings (Heide I, II and III), as well as 15 acres of garden and a vast Sculpture Park that hosts some 30 works of art by a number of well-known artists. Entry to the gardens and Sculpture Park is free, but exhibitions inside the museum sometimes incur an entry fee.
Centre for Contemporary Photography
Showcasing a range of pieces from emerging and established photographers, the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) is a very special free art gallery in Melbourne. Since opening in the mid-1980s, the gallery has remained a not-for-profit organisation committed to supporting Melbourne’s photography scene, allowing visitors to take in its various works across five exhibition spaces. Each space is unique in its own right, but it is the fifth space that truly sets this gallery apart; it houses the “Night Projection Window”, which allows you to view the gallery’s piece at night from the outside. The centre holds a number of photography courses, both for beginners and those looking to enhance their existing skills, and also hosts lectures to further encourage people to try their hand at photography.
Anna Schwartz Gallery
Owned and operated by founder Anna Schwartz since 1986, the Anna Schwartz Gallery is a striking art gallery in the Melbourne CBD. As a well respected name in the arts, Anna Schwartz has attracted some of the country’s most intriguing contemporary artists, including Peter Booth, Ian Burns, John Young and Mike Parr. Exhibitions are always changing as she represents numerous established and emerging artists, so there is always something new and memorable to be experienced at this Flinders Lane gallery.
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Another of the many compelling free galleries in Melbourne is the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA). This not-for-profit gallery is fittingly situated alongside the Victorian College of the Arts near Southbank. The building within which the gallery is located is reason enough to visit, being a distinctive red-rust structure designed by Wood Marsh. However, step inside and you’ll find a range of exhibits spanning sculpture, print, paint, installation, photography and video. As the name suggests, the space is dedicated to contemporary art works, and acts as a place for inspirational artists to showcase their fun yet thought provoking ideas to the public.
Another example of the many fine small art galleries in Melbourne, Sutton Gallery is a remarkable contemporary art gallery nestled in the city’s bohemian thoroughfare of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. The gallery’s size means it can only exhibit one artist at a time, but this ensures an intimate and specific experience, with works ranging from paintings and photography through to installations.
Located in the city’s north in Preston, this Melbourne art gallery is a beacon for fans of contemporary artworks by local and international artists. Gertrude Contemporary first opened its doors in 1985 as a place for ambitious creative concepts, and today features three gallery spaces that display diverse and newly commissioned works. More than just an exhibition space though, Gertrude Contemporary has been instrumental in the sculpting of many artists’ careers. In fact, since the gallery’s foundation, 85% of artists who have either represented Australia at the Venice Biennale or have featured in the Biennale‘s international exhibition are alumni of Gertrude Contemporary’s studio and exhibition spaces.
Situated within Storey Hall, the RMIT Gallery is the main art gallery and premier exhibition space of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The gallery focuses on public art and design, with exhibition programs showcasing not only visual art, but also new media, sonic art, pop culture, technology and multidisciplinary artistic practice, all across five museum-standard galleries. Additionally, the RMIT Gallery runs a number of programmes and publications alongside its exhibitions, all in the name of strengthening interactions between RMIT and the public.
Art Yarramanua Gallery
Owned by Stan Yarramunua, Art Yarramunua Gallery in St Kilda is one of the finest Aboriginal art galleries in Melbourne. This impressive space houses a collection of art by Aboriginal artists, with many painted by Stan himself and others purchased from his ancestors from Australia’s Central Desert region. As such, everything housed within this gallery’s walls is 100% authentic, making the gallery a true celebration of modern indigenous artistry.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) takes a break from displaying more traditional art and instead focuses on the digital world. Opening in 2002, ACMI is dedicated to bringing important and innovative film-related exhibitions to Australia, and celebrates the moving image through festivals, live events, panel forums, creative and hands-on workshops and film screenings. Its permanent exhibits focus on gaming, virtual reality and Australian film, as well as the long and exciting history of cinema in Australia. As far as unique art galleries in Melbourne go, this one isn’t to be missed.
Lyon Housemuseum and Housemuseum Galleries
For a really quirky interaction with Melbourne’s artistic scene, head to the eastern suburb of Kew to Lyon Housemuseum. The gallery consists of two distinct sections; the first being the original house museum, which is where founders Corbett and Yueji Lyon live and which can only be visited on pre-booked tours held on certain days of the year. The second space is the newly-opened public Housemuseum Galleries. These spaces, which were designed by Corbett himself, display both national and international art exhibitions and host design and architecture shows. The gallery today consists of more than 350 contemporary works by some 50 artists, including such names as Brook Andrew, Howard Arkley, Patricia Piccinini and Daniel von Sturmer, making it one of the largest of its kind in Australia.
Explore some of these art galleries in Melbourne for yourself by booking flights to the Victorian capital city with Webjet. You can also find your Melbourne hotel, or combine your airfare and accommodation into the one booking with a great-value holiday package.