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The 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries in Melbourne

National Gallery Victoria | © Steve Collis/Flickr
Picture of Melissa Pearce
Updated: 9 January 2018
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Melbourne is the second most populated city in Australia and is renowned for its enthralling arts scene. With its vast wealth of cultural and artistic institutions, it is no wonder that it is often referred to as the Cultural Capital of Australia. Melissa Pearce looks at the top 10 contemporary art galleries in this bustling metropolis and highlights some of their most exciting exhibitions.

Often heralded as the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne offers a surplus of artistic expression with a multitude of galleries, festivals and events taking place throughout its calendar annually. With all kinds of galleries from government and public to privately run, along with countless underground studios and spaces, one often has to look hard to see the treasures that are hidden down side roads or tucked away through small doors in the laneways. It is impossible to go to Melbourne and not see a striking work of art in one form or another, whether it be the various outdoor sculptures, the stunning architecture, or the abundance of urban, street and graffiti art for which the city has become famous. Proud of this reputation, art programs often take over the city, such as the ‘Transporting Art’ project which is celebrating it’s 35th year, acting as just one way in which the public is integrated with the Melbourne art scene. Voted as the world’s most liveable city 2015, it is not hard to see why travelers flock to Melbourne in order to get a taste of this chic, relaxed, diverse and truly breathtakingly beautiful city.

National Gallery of Victoria

Art Gallery
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A highlight in the NGV is the colourful Len French glass ceiling
A highlight in the NGV is the colourful Len French glass ceiling | /WikiCommons
Made up of the NGV International and The Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Australia’s oldest public art gallery and proudly exhibits a wide range of artworks from around the globe. A visually striking building, the slate exterior is enveloped by water as you walk towards the open entrance and are greeted by the gallery’s famous Waterwall. Sheets of glass are brought to life by rainwater collected on the roof of the NGV International building, which is recycled through the drainpipes and water treatment plant. With water shortages in Australia as an on-going concern, it is innovative design ideas such as this that make the NGV stand out.
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National Gallery Victoria
© Steve Collis/Flickr

Gertrude Contemporary

Located in a vast converted warehouse in the bohemian suburb of Fitzroy, Gertrude Contemporary was opened in 1985 and is centred around not only the presentation and exhibiting of contemporary art but the creation of it as well. Focusing on newly commissioned works and initially involved in Australian contemporary art, in recent years the gallery has included a diverse range of international works which are displayed across its three gallery spaces. The gallery has an impressive catalogue of renowned artists, and holds regularly changing exhibitions and impressive educational programs. The spacious front room allows for a fantastic flow of natural light and enhanced viewing for the public.

Gertrude Contemporary, 200 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC +61 (03) 9419 3406

On the fringes of Melbourne’s CBD, the buzz of student city living is reflected in and around Storey Hall, which houses the RMIT’s art gallery. Much of the building has been refurbished with an artistic flair, but the gallery can be found through the original sandstone entrance up bluestone steps. Throughout the university gallery there is a focus on public art and design, with a number of programmes and publications running alongside the exhibitions to compliment them. Recently the gallery took part in White Night Melbourne with their ‘Animating Laneways’ project which focused on making art and culture accessible to the wider public by familiarising it with public spaces. Adding a splash of colour to Melbourne’s laneways by day, RMIT transformed them by night using stop-animation. Following the theme of bringing art in Melbourne to the public, this is RMIT’s second trip down the laneways attributing to street art, arguably the biggest artistic movement of the past two decades.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

The ACCA acts as one of the prime contemporary art spaces in Melbourne, providing inspirational up and coming artists with generous spaces in which to express their inventive and daring concepts. Works from the range of artists vary from installations of sound and sculpture to Jaqueline Donachie’s ‘Melbourne Slow Down’ project, in which cyclists strapped bottles full of chalk to their bicycles and rode towards the ACCA from the outskirts of the city of Melbourne. Fun, yet thought provoking ideas such as this are evidence of the ACCA as an institution that offers the public a very fresh look on recent contemporary artistic practices in an exciting way. Whether you have an interest in contemporary art or simply want to appreciate Wood Marsh’s architecture, a visit to the ACCA is a must with always something new to see in their ever changing collection.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 111 Sturt St, Southbank VIC +61 (03) 9697 9999

Centre for Contemporary Photography

The Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) provides a detailed background and history for the spectator, allowing for an educational and enjoyable experience of contemporary photography. Opened in 1986, the not-for-profit organisation consists of five spaces in which they showcase the most current and up-to-date photography of the time, including Australian and International works from both new and established artists. Upon entering the centre, galleries one and two flow seamlessly into a larger third gallery space, which is then followed by a fourth more intimate room. You are confronted with a range of techniques and processes, and the creative atmosphere allows for a comprehensible dialogue between onlooker and oeuvre. The fifth exhibition space is the ‘Night Projection Window’, a night time window space, enabling for an external peek at the chosen artist’s work which is viewable seven nights a week. Couple this with the number of photography courses and lectures, and the CCP puts itself at the forefront of contemporary art practice, making it a great place to go for those new to photography or veterans of the practice.

Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George St, Fitzroy VIC +61 (03) 9417 1549

Heide Museum of Modern Art

Art Museum
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Heide Museum of Modern Art
One of the Heide Museum's displays | © Heide Museum of Modern Art / Flickr
Located in the Melbourne suburb of Bulleen, the Heide Museum of Modern Art has had a flourishing history since the property was purchased by John and Sunday Reed in 1934. The renovated farmhouse attracted some of the most prolific figures in Australian art and culture at the time, and has since become one of the most respected houses of modern art in Australia. Consisting of the Heide Collection which is still growing today through various acts of generosity and contributors, as well as public, private and solo artist exhibitions, the museum upholds a tradition of promoting living contemporary artists who are predominantly Australian but also with a noteworthy international influence. Now comprising of three buildings (Heide I, II and III), the history can be seen from the architecture, with the old beautifully renovated Heide I standing in stark contrast to the black zinc exterior of Heide III. In addition to the museum, the public also have access to the beautiful fifteen acres of garden which boast an eclectic selection of herbs and vegetables.
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Tue - Sun:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Atmosphere:

Peaceful, Photo Opportunity
© Heide Museum of Modern Art/Flickr

Mailbox Art Space

Art Gallery, Building
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Long-distance relationship curated by Andree Ruggeri
Long-distance relationship curated by Andree Ruggeri | Courtesy of Mailbox Artspace
Mailbox Art Space (formerly Mailbox 141) is an alternative public art space that supports artistic experimentation and the exhibition of new work. 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. In offering this space to create specialized works of contemporary art, with no overbearing themes or guidelines, artists are free to be as inventive and bold as they please and are able to bend themselves creatively as each mailbox varies slightly in scale. Here they have created a space in which the laws of everyday urban life cease to exist, and this allows the visitor to come to their own conclusions using their own individual imaginations.
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Sun:
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Mon:
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Long-distance relationship curated by Andree Ruggeri
Courtesy of Mailbox Artspace

Maroondah Art Gallery

Art Gallery
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Established in 2001 – making it the youngest public gallery in Melbourne – Maroondah Art Gallery is full of promise. Like many of the galleries featured in this list, Maroondah Art Gallery emphasises a connection to Melbourne’s public and its art scene. They exhibit works of historical importance as well as more recent contemporary works across a selection of media. Although predominantly interested with the medium of painting, the gallery has also exhibited indigenous works as well as contemporary works of fashion, jewellery and photography. Notable for anyone living in Melbourne for an extended period of time are the gallery’s selection of public programs, namely the life drawing sessions that take place fortnightly. Increasingly including contemporary works within its collection, Maroondah Art Gallery is one to look out for.
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Mon:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Gould Galleries

Art Gallery
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With a focus on Australian contemporary art, the experienced art trader Rob Gould – with his extensive years of experience in the Australian art and antiques trade – carefully selects impressive contemporary artworks for exhibition, whilst also being involved in selling artworks to a variety of buyers. The gallery is associated with more than 90 artists and boasts a range of visually striking works, more recently international as well as Australian. The building is composed of two gallery spaces over two floors, and whilst both exhibitions are generally unrelated to one another, both present an assortment of diverse and colourful works that deal with a range of contemporary issues.
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Nellie Castan Gallery

Opened in 2000, the highly esteemed and respected Nellie Castan Gallery is directed by Nellie Castan, a well-known figure in the Melbourne art scene due to his professionalism and experience of three decades. Interested in not only new contemporary artists but those who are established to a certain degree, past exhibitions displayed a very diverse and wonderfully experimental group of works. The first of two gallery spaces (Gallery I) is a spacious area in which solo exhibitions can breathe, whilst the second gallery space (Gallery II) allows new talent to show their works along with other Australian and International up and coming contemporary artists.

Nelly Castan Gallery, 1/12 River St, South Yarra VIC +61

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