The art scene in Melbourne, Australia is renowned for its vibrancy and size, facilitated by the abundance of cultural and artistic institutions in the city. Often referred to as the Cultural Capital of Australia, Melbourne’s myriad of contemporary art galleries offer some of the most exciting displays of aesthetic desiderata in all of Australia. Join us as we explore the top ten galleries and art spaces in this enchanting city.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is the oldest public art gallery in the whole of Australia. Displayed within this aesthetically striking building is a wide range of artworks from around the globe. The arresting slate exterior is framed by a wall of water, otherwise known as the gallery’s famous ‘waterwall’. Sheets of glass undulate behind a perpetual drizzle of captured and recycled rainwater collected on the roof of the building, which tumbles down via the drainpipes and a water treatment plant. There are a range of feature exhibitions on at any one time as well as the NGV’s own extensive collection of Australian Art.
Arthur Boyd, Butterfly Man, 1943 | Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art
Housed in a renovated farmhouse in the Melbourne suburb of Bulleen, the Heide Museum of Modern Art has attracted prominent figures in Australian art and culture that let to its status as one of the leading galleries of modern art in Australia. The eponymous Heide Collection is still expanding today via acts of generosity from contributors. The museum espouses the promotion of living contemporary Australian artists who hold significant international influence. The gallery is comprised of three buildings (Heide I, II and III) with architecture that betrays the museum’s history. The old, beautifully renovated Heide I stands in stark contrast to the modern, black zinc exterior of Heide III. The public is granted access to 15 acres of verdant garden which house an eclectic selection of herbs and vegetables. The gallery’s colorful history was also the inspiration to a book, The Strays by Melbourne author, Emily Bitto.
The striking Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) building one of the most revered contemporary art spaces in Melbourne, where nascent artists are granted plentiful space to express their innovative and intrepid concepts. The exhibitions range from installations of sound and sculpture to Maria Hassabi’s ‘Intermission’, a performance-based piece in which the choreographer focuses on stillness in the moving body in her acclaimed live installation. The ACCA as an institution offers the public a new perspective on the world around them, employing contemporary artistic practices in a novel way. Head over and enjoy Wood Marsh’s stunning architecture and some of the most exhilarating contemporary art exhibitions in the world.
First opened in 1985, the Gertrude Contemporary art gallery’s mission was to not only exhibit the newest and most exciting works in contemporary art, but also to incubate, nurture and exhibit burgeoning talents. Located within an expansive converted warehouse in the bohemian suburb of Fitzroy, Gertrude Contemporary focuses on newly commissioned works with an emphasis on home grown Australian contemporary art, as well as a range of international work displayed in its three gallery spaces. The gallery plays host to an impressive catalogue of renowned artists, and perpetually changes exhibitions and educational programs. A spacious front room enables the flood of natural light to enhance the public’s viewings of the art.
The RMIT Gallery of the RMIT University is situated within Storey Hall, a building that has been fastidiously refurbished with artistic pizzazz. The gallery focuses on public art and design with a variety of programs and publications running parallel to the exhibitions for further insight. The RMIT simultaneously holds multiple exhibitions like the Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo. This exhibition explores what is unique about the vibrant artworks that emerge from the Balgo region located in Western Australia, right in the arid heart of the Tanami Desert. The exhibition compiles both early and more recent works of Balgo, providing guests a genuine Balgoan aesthetic journey sui generis.
Founded in 1972, the Ian Potter Museum of Art is part of the University of Melbourne and houses multiple magnificent exhibitions of contemporary and historical artwork that guests can enjoy free of charge. The gallery presents around 14 curated exhibitions annually and boasts more than 900 square meters of gallery space. The Ian Potter characterizes itself as “a laboratory for arts and ideas,” providing a space that is fascinating for guests and instructive for the young creative minds of the university.
The Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) prides itself of exhibiting progressive, “experimental and research-based contemporary art [as] an curatorial practice.” Since the 1960s, MUMA has been hosting a myriad of innovative contemporary artist and exploring new ideas and concepts through exhibitions, collection development, curatorial research, publishing and community engagement.
Melbourne’s Anna Schwartz Gallery plays host to invigorating contemporary artists who exhibit their work in the expansive whitewashed spaces. The gallery is currently exhibiting the work of Kathy Temin, whose striking works are all grouped under the rubric of “Pet Cemetery.” Her Monument works have been installed within the gallery. These beguiling sculptures are made from synthetic fur and emulate impervious black forests with snow-capped ornamentally shaped shrubbery that visitants must weave their way through. The eponymous Pet Cemetery is formed of similar sculptures that are much reduced in size and are evocative of graves, with names such as Pet Tomb: Tina and Pet Tomb: Ebaneza attest to.
The No Vacancy gallery in Melbourne’s mission is to exhibit and help promote the best emerging local and international contemporary artists. The exhibitions normally change every fortnight, meaning that there is always something exciting and fresh adorning the gallery’s walls or inhabiting its interior. Since it opened in 2008, the gallery has hosted a multitude of solo and group exhibitions, magazine, book and label launches; fashion shows; cinemas; and abundant art markets.
The Blindside gallery in Melbourne has played host to multitudinous exhibitions and special events and displayed the art of almost 600 artists in over 200 exhibitions. For the anniversary it is producing a publication that explores and discusses the work of all of those it has exhibition over the past decade. As well as the multiple exhibitions that are on in the physical gallery, Blindside Play exhibits new experimental video on the gallery’s website.