With its strong artistic culture, Melbourne attracts some of the world's best travelling exhibitions and artworks and serves as a proving ground for promising newcomers. The best art in the world is on display in Melbourne's museums and galleries.
Melburnians can still experience culture without booking a flight to Paris or New York City to visit the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
See for yourself why Melbourne is called Australia's "arts capital"; just walk around the city and you'll see a wealth of artworks adorning the walls. Our city has some of Australia's finest contemporary art galleries and museums because of the central role that art and culture play in shaping our community's identity.
Melbourne's Best Art Galleries
When the weather is dreary and damp, what do you do? You say, but what about when it's really steamy outside? Visit a museum or art gallery. They are inside, safe from the elements, and ready to fill your soft brain with something besides meaningless Instagram nonsense.
Success on three fronts! Furthermore, residing in Melbourne places you in close proximity to some of the finest art galleries this great nation has to offer. In honour of Urban List Art Month, we've compiled a list of some of Melbourne's finest art galleries for those of you who need a cultural fix but don't want to travel far.
FAQs Melbourne Best Art Gallery
Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art The Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art is very much a gallery, as they do sell their Aboriginal Art. Buxton Contemporary Just around the corner from the NGV, the Buxton museum of contemporary art is a gem to the art scene in Melbourne.
Are there any licenses required? Art galleries adhere to the same licensing requirements as other small businesses. There are no special requirements above what another type of store would need to have (like a business license, a license for collecting sales tax, and so on).
In collaboration with many collectors and artists, "gallery owners" have also defined a set of criteria for evaluating the professionalism of galleries: loyalty to artists, commitment to their success, ethics, accessibility to the public, provision of services to collectors and more.
The National Gallery of Australia is housed in a stunning modernist building on St. Kilda Road, and it has been drawing visitors for over a century. This distinction is due to the consistently high quality of the gallery's permanent collection, the exceptional quality of its visiting collections, and the wide range of additional events it hosts for both locals and visitors.
Even though it has only been open since the mid-1800s, the gallery's permanent collection already boasts works by Rembrandt, Bonnard, and Tiepolo. When entering the NGV, visitors must walk past the water wall, and it is tempting to put their hands in the water.
The ground floor is where most of the gallery's major exhibitions are held, and the Great Hall features a stunning stained glass ceiling shaped like boiled lollies. The main floors of the museum house the rotating temporary exhibits, while the upper levels house the permanent collections.
You should keep a close eye on any juvenile inmates planning an escape, as the large rooms reminiscent of the colonial era are easy to get lost in. The NGV's 19th Century Gallery is a mandatory stop for any guest (or Salon Gallery). Its unique arrangement of artwork has earned it the name "Anguish," and it features one of the most exciting works in the exhibition by August Friedrich Schenck.
Stopping for refreshments is highly recommended, as you could easily spend an entire day here; the Tea Room serves high tea, cakes, and light meals, while the Garden Restaurant serves seasonal fare. You can't talk about the best art galleries in Melbourne without mentioning NGV. The two galleries, NGV International and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, are located in the central business district and are renowned for their captivating and alluring displays. The NGV is like an adult (and child) art playground, with works by famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Jean-Michel Basquiat on display alongside interactive pieces and massive installations.
The Ian Potter Centre
The Ian Potter Centre houses NGV's extensive collection of Australian artwork, ranging from the Colonial period to contemporary art. Galleries feature photography, prints and drawings, fashion and textiles, decorative arts, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Don't miss Charles Blackman's Alice, Heidelberg School artists and an impressive Indigenous art collection.
Heide Museum of Modern Art
Heide Museum of Modern Art is a torchbearer for Australian modernism and champions contemporary Australian art – in the spirit of its founders John and Sunday Reed, patrons and collectors who fostered the local modernist movement in the 1930s and 1940s.
While the focus is on Australians, international contemporary art is also exhibited. The museum comprises three core buildings – Heide I, II and III – and extensive gardens and a sculpture park. In 1934, the Reeds bought and settled on the site, calling it Heide after the town of Heidelberg just across the river. Over the next decade, they turned Heide into a hub for artists, writers and thinkers who shared their progressive social and cultural ideals.
The Angry Penguins (including painters Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Arthur Boyd and John Perceval) alternately lived, worked and played here in the 1940s. Heide I is the Reeds' original farmstead, while Heide II is a slice of modernist architecture designed by David McGlashan in 1964 when the family outgrew their original digs.
After the Reeds passed away in 1981, the public art museum and sculpture park were established, and a larger building was built, with its zinc facade now the distinctive, recognisable face of Heide MOMA.
Heide Museum of Modern Art is a unique combination of art, architecture, social history and landscape. Established in 1981, Heide houses modern and contemporary art across three distinct exhibition buildings and is set within sixteen acres of heritage-listed gardens and a sculpture park. The museum occupies the site of a former dairy farm owned by prominent arts benefactors John and Sunday Reed and was the gathering place for the Heide Circle.
Flinders Lane Gallery
Only a stone's throw away from Anna Schwartz Gallery resides Flinders Lane Gallery, a must-see on the walking gallery tour in the arts precinct. Under the careful directorial guide of Claire Harris since 2006, Flinders Lane Gallery takes great pride in sourcing and showcasing prised artworks. Working with and championing artists from all points of their career progression, Flinders Lane Gallery emphasises exceptional, quality artworks that demonstrate conceptual precision, technical proficiency and create awareness and sensitivity.
You can also take a virtual tour of their gallery exhibitions on their website, with prints available to purchase from their stockroom.
With two convenient locations across Melbourne, including one in the heart of the city on Elizabeth Street and the newest addition on Smith Street, Outré Gallery challenges the conventions of the archetypal gallery.
Known for their exceptional range of figurative artwork and curatorial aesthetic, Outré has been host to an extensive catalogue of highly regarded works from amongst others.
Linden New Art
This former Victoria mansion in St Kilda has been home to contemporary art since it was purchased by the council in 1986, formerly under the banner Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts. Rebranded in 2015, Linden New Art is more than a gallery: a program of talks, meet-and-greets and in-conversation dinners designed to connect audiences with artists. The exhibitions program encompasses Australian and international artists and ranges from popular annual exhibitions like the open-entry Linden Postcard Show to the non-acquisitive Linden Art Prize.
Linden New Art is a unique not-for-profit contemporary art gallery in the heart of St Kilda. Housed in a Victorian mansion, Linden's grand domestic building makes it unique to see, explore, and discuss contemporary art. Linden's annual exhibition program features artists across Australia and overseas, with exhibitions changing every eight weeks.
Anna Schwartz Gallery
The imposing Anna Schwartz opened her Flinders Lane gallery in 1986 (following the closure of the more bohemian art gallery, United Artists, in St Kilda. She moved to the current site, also on Flinders Lane, in 1993 and has represented some of the country's most respected contemporary artists.
A self-titled gallery from prominent gallerist and curator Anna Schwartz, the Anna Schwartz Gallery is now directed by Tania Doropoulos. With a mission to identify, nurture and showcase the careers of visionary Australian and international artists, the contemporary space represents over 30 multi-generational art-makers. It works, bringing to life individual projects. With installations running every month, Anna Schwartz Gallery is transformed by minimalist modernist curatorial endeavours.
Two thousand nineteen exhibitions included world-renowned photographer Taryn Smith, multidisciplinary artist Daniel von Sturmer and are currently showing Emily Floyd's anti-totalitarian Vectors.
Established in 1967, Tolarno Galleries has a rich history of curating highly stimulating, innovative, and boundary-pushing exhibitions across contemporary art and design.
It has been at the cutting edge of contemporary Australian art for over 50 years. Tolarno Galleries has shown some of Australia's – and the world with a reputation for showing fresh, often young artists. The exhibition program attracts the attention of collectors, curators and critics from around the globe.
Fittingly located on Exhibition Street, the gallery boasts an impressive exhibition log flooded with modern masters and emerging leaders including Bonnard, Dali, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, and Vuillard in the early years and Australian modernists Charles Blackman, John Brack, Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester, and Albert Tucker.
Another all-rounder in the spectrum of artwork, Tolarno, has become especially known and celebrated globally for including mind-boggling, cutting-edge design works.
Sutton Gallery has been called Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, and has been home since 1992. With a monthly program calendar of solo and group exhibitions from highly regarded contemporary Australian and New Zealand artists, Sutton Gallery has earned a name as one of Australia's best contemporary galleries. So far in 2021, they have presented works by renowned artists David Rosetzky, Eugene Carchesio, and Raafat Ishak.
Anna Pappas Gallery
Anna Pappas, speaking to Time Out about the inception of her gallery, said that between 2000 and 2002, she travelled extensively in search of new concepts for what a gallery could and should be. felt there was room for conversation with other nations and moved away from catering to the "white cube" crowd. In the beginning, the exhibition featured both international and local artists from all over Australia, including those from Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Greece.
We sponsored their trip to Australia, where we showed them around and pushed them to draw inspiration from their travels and the city of Melbourne. In 2009, the gallery changed its name and focus to feature contemporary artwork from the surrounding area.
Centre for Contemporary Photography
The name says it all. Set up in the mid-80s as a not-for-profit exhibition and resource centre, the CCP still holds photography courses for beginners and those wanting to further their skills. There are five spaces within the building, and at night, especially if you're drinking at the Marquis of Lorne, you'll view a range of works from emerging and established photographers from the Night Projection Window.
The Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) is an educational, enjoyable way to experience contemporary photography. Opened in 1986, the not-for-profit organisation consists of five spaces, in which it showcases contemporary photography from new and established artists, both Australian and international. Upon entering the centre, galleries one and two flow seamlessly into a larger third gallery space; a fourth, more intimate room follows them.
The fifth exhibition space is the 'Night Projection Window', a nighttime window space that lets onlookers get a peek at a chosen artist's work from the outside – seven nights a week. The CCP also hosts several photography courses and lectures for those inspired by the exhibitions to try their hand at photography.
This public art and design gallery hosts rotating exhibitions that delve into varied aspects of visual culture from Australia and beyond. The RMIT Gallery is the primary gallery for University exhibitions. Five galleries fit for a museum showcase the public exhibition programme, which features cutting-edge visual art, new media, sonic art, design, popular culture, cutting-edge technology, and innovative art fusions.
Exhibitions at RMIT encourage greater engagement between the university and the general public around the world, and with good reason: there's some neat stuff on display. The main art gallery at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is located in Storey Hall, which is located on the outskirts of Melbourne's CBD (Central Business District).
Artistic renovations have been made to much of the building, but the gallery is still accessible via the original sandstone entrance and a flight of bluestone stairs. The gallery as a whole has an emphasis on public art and design and offers a number of related publications and events. The RMIT exhibits not only cutting-edge visual art but also multimedia works spanning the fields of sound design, popular culture, technology, and the arts at large.
Arc One Gallery
Located in the centre of Melbourne's arts precinct on Flinders Lane, Arc One is one of Australia's leading contemporary commercial galleries. With a multi-tier business operation of exhibition and representation, Arc One has a diverse roster and portfolio of mid-career to established artists.
From solo shows to group exhibitions delivered across many mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, installations, video, and visual media, Arc One is shaping the narrative to present Australian artists in the same high calibre division as their international counterparts.
Dynamic and transformative – the two ingredients for intrigue in the art world. Blindside delivers on this promise, with their 2021 program calendar set to make good on the guarantee. Open Tuesday through Saturday during the exhibition period, Blindside fosters the bold and encourages the courageous across all artforms.
Through contemporary art practices of sculpture, drawing, painting, performance art, design, and modern variations of visual media, sound, and installation, Blindside provides the blank space for artists to paint their signature.
Although still in its infancy, Buxton Contemporary has forged a strong name in the Melbourne contemporary art scene. A product of the University of Melbourne's flagship arts school, Victorian College of the Arts, Buxton Contemporary, is a platform for exposure and education.
With four main public gallery spaces and outdoor screens dedicated to displaying moving image art, Buxton Contemporary is not just a gallery space or a museum, and it's an all-encompassing arts hub. The space engages local, national, and international artists for art exhibitions.
Buxton Contemporary is one of the newest art galleries in Melbourne. It opened in 2018 at the Victorian College of the Arts, the University of Melbourne's art school. As well as its four exhibition galleries, it boasts the largest outdoor screen in Australia dedicated to the display of moving image art.
The Buxton collection, which was donated to the University by art collector and property developer Michael Buxton, contains more than 350 major artworks and focuses on contemporary Australian art, making Buxton a great place to visit for those who want to discover the country's most exciting artists.
And it's not just exhibitions on the programme here – Buxton Contemporary also uses the collection as inspiration for performance, research, teaching and publishing.
Grau Projekt is a 1050-square metre space that has become a stunning hub for local and international contemporary art. But there's a delicious twist: alongside every monthly installation comes a curated five-drink menu that reflects the exhibition's overarching theme. Best part? Drinks are made by owner and mixologist extraordinaire Matt Bax himself.
Established in Melbourne in 1983, ACCA develops exhibitions exploring the ideas and work of significant artists from around the world, commissions ambitious new works by local and international artists, and delivers a range of curatorial, education and public programs including talks, lectures, symposia, performances, screenings, music and events. It's a must if you haven't been yet.
Amazon Aboriginal Modern Art Gallery of Australia
The Aboriginal Modern Art Gallery of Australia (AMAGOA) specialises in art consultation, advice and the curation of private and corporate collections. They're able to source beautiful, high-quality artworks of specifically requested Aboriginal artists from across Australia, following the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia's Code of Conduct. You can also purchase, rent or lease artworks.
Mailbox Art Space
In the city's Flinders Lane arts precinct, Mailbox Art Space invites artists to create site-specific work – in a series of restored mailboxes! The mailboxes are located in Pawson House, a historic heritage building, and the artists also get to do works for the surrounding area.
The small size of the mailboxes makes it a truly unique way of showcasing art and is also a challenge to the artists. In addition, each mailbox varies slightly in scale, meaning the works have to be completely tailor-made.
It's an innovative space to host exhibitions and a nice juxtaposition between a historical building and contemporary art. A very non-traditional gallery, Mailbox Art Space is exactly what it sounds like: it's an alternative public art space that supports artistic experimentation and the exhibition of new work in small mailboxes with glass panels.
Located in the heart of Melbourne's Flinders Lane arts precinct, artists are invited to create site-specific work for a series of restored mailboxes and the surrounding area of the historic Pawson House heritage building. If you're an artist, you can apply to be featured here.
The Lyon Housemuseum consists of the original house museum, where founding patrons Corbett and Yuji Lyon live, which is open for pre-booked tours on certain days each year, and the new public Housemuseum Galleries.
These opened in March 2019 and showcase both national and international art exhibitions and architecture and design shows. Both spaces were designed by Corbett Lyon himself, an architect, and the striking, geometric designs are worth a visit in themselves.
The Lyons' collection of Australian contemporary art consists of more than 350 works by over 50 artists and is one of Australia's largest of its kind. Artists include Brook Andrew, Howard Arkley, Patricia Piccinini, Callum Morton, Shaun Gladwell, Daniel von Sturmer and Daniel Crooks.