Sydney may think it has one up on the other major Australian cities, what with being home to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, but when it comes to the true cultural capital of Australia, look no further than Melbourne. Not only does the Victorian city have hidden laneways where you’ll find some of the best coffee on earth, but it also has hands-down, the coolest art galleries around, for those looking for a cultural and educational fix.
It’s no wonder, Melbourne has a thriving creative scene running through its veins, which has proven to be a huge inspiration for both residents and visitors alike and creative arts is one of the most studied subjects. Having a degree within the arts under your belt can land you your dream job in Melbourne, which will go perfectly hand-in-hand with it being one of the world’s most liveable cities.
It’s with this in mind that Melbourne is home to a fair few art galleries, each of which specialising in something unique. It’s not feasible to visit them all in one day, so if you’re visiting you’ll want to make sure you book yourself some time in the cultural capital – and stay at an ultra-cool hotel in the process – to make sure no painting, image or sculpture is left unnoticed.
National Gallery Of Victoria
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3006
It makes sense to start right at the top of the arts scene in Melbourne, and this absolute mecca of all things art lives. Founded in 1861, The National Gallery of Victoria – or NGV – isn’t just one of the most recognised galleries in Victoria, but it is Australia’s oldest, largest and most visited art museum. It’s home to well over 70,000 pieces of artwork in a striking building which features a soaring roofline and external water wall which is a work of art in itself. The artwork inside comes from a diverse background including indigenous, colonial and contemporary art.
A must-visit for any art fiend.
Australian Centre For Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street, Southbank, 3006
You won’t have any qualms about setting foot into the ACCA, which is a not-for-profit gallery that showcases a diverse range of exhibitions including sculpture work, video, installations, paintings and photography. Inside you’re greeted by four large gallery spaces which form an internal courtyard space with the Malthouse Theatre next door.
The building itself is a local icon with its striking rusted walls and prism design by Wood Marsh.
21-31 High Street, Preston South, 3072
Gertrude Contemporary has been offering space for emerging artists to display their career-defining work ever since 1983. Despite going through a few name changes along the way and relocation in 2017 has Gertrude Contemporary has consistently been a leading centre for contemporary art and ideas.
Of course, being situated in Melbourne has meant Gertrude Contemporary currently occupies a converted furniture warehouse (there’s not much more Melbourne than that) and exhibits work from both local and international artists.
344 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 3000
Don’t be fooled by the university students floating around. Storey Hall is also home to RMIT’s (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) very own art gallery which showcases some of the city’s finest public art, craft, pop culture and design work. They host a selection of programs which coincide with the exhibitions on display so that visitors can get the full experience of the artist’s vision.
Heide Museum Of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, 3105
If you really want to make a dent in Melbourne’s expansive art trail, then take a trip outside of the CBD and pay a visit to the Heide Museum of Modern Art. The more rural location means the museum is afforded some 16 acres of land, which is used to site three exhibition buildings and a sculpture park. The owners of the former dairy farm upon which the current museum is situated have a history that is well worth looking into (we won’t regale the entire thing here) but safe to say the owners, John and Sunday Reed, were pivotal in Australia’s artistic scene.
Centre For Contemporary Photography
404 George Street, Fitzroy, 3065
Photo snappers from the amateur through to the professional, meet your mecca. The Centre For Contemporary Photography exhibits photography work from artists across five spaces, and include works of contemporary fine art and indigenous photography, along with genres including portraiture, video, digital imaging and photojournalism.
The not-for-profit gallery also offers photography courses for shutterbugs who want to further their craft.
Scott Livesey Galleries
610 High Street, Prahan, 3181
For an extensive experience of contemporary Australian and international art, look no further than the Scott Livesey Galleries. This exhibiting gallery hosts an ever-changing rotation of contemporary art from Australian and international artists. It’s a much more intimate space than some of the other galleries on this list so is easier to navigate, but is only open five days a week, with Monday being by appointment only.
Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000
Anna Schwartz is a highly respected name in the local art scene so it’s not surprising to see her running her own galleries in both Sydney and Melbourne. Her Melbourne gallery features everything from striking installations, to drawings, to sculptures and anything else that captures the imagination. A must-visit destination for any real art lover.
Melbourne Art Galleries FAQ
How many art galleries are there in Melbourne?
There are over 100 art galleries in Melbourne, ranging from the large and grand public galleries and museums, all the way down to the more independent and intimate exhibitionist space.
Is the NGV free?
The NGV is free to enter and to take a look around the long-term exhibits. However, limited-run exhibitions are ticketed and it's highly recommended you book your visit in advance.