An Insider’s Guide to Melbourne’s Boutique Art Galleries

Melbourne curator and writer, Kim Brockett, shares her favourite boutique art galleries. Working at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and as Deputy Chair of artist-run initiative Bus Projects, she’s the perfect arts-insider to take us within some of the Melbourne’s most creative spaces.

Melbourne is home to dozens of galleries tucked away in basements, laneways and up flights of rickety stairs – some of the best experiences can be found off the beaten track. Whether you’d like to discover new artists, add to your collection (or even start one!); reward your curiosity by spending a relaxing Saturday getting to know the city’s smaller galleries.

Most independent spaces allow you to buy work directly from the artist, enabling you to support an emerging artist at the beginning of their career. Keep an eye out for annual fundraisers hosted by these non-profit galleries – they’re often great opportunities to give back to Melbourne’s rich arts community, with proceedings allowing the gallery to continue providing a visible platform for artists to experiment and present work.

Alexander Knox, Caves

Alexander Knox, Caves

C A V E S

The Nicholas Building on Swanston Street is one of the city’s last remaining studio complexes, hosting a diverse array of artists, jewellers, shoemakers, as well as boutique shops and the odd acting studio. Amongst this is independent art gallery C A V E S, a boxy space on the sixth floor that presents a tightly curated program of Australian emerging and mid-career artists. While you’re there, also visit BLINDSIDE, a non-profit gallery on the seventh floor.

Fort Delta

Within a basement in an arcade between Collins and Little Collins Street in a former Asian grocery is Fort Delta, a subterranean private gallery with a focus on painting, photography and other wall-based works. A perfect place to start for the budding art collector!

Eleanor Louise Butt, Fort Delta

Eleanor Louise Butt, Fort Delta

Koorie Heritage Trust

Sandwiched between the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia) and ACMI is the Koorie Heritage Trust, a gem of a space in The Yarra Building at Federation Square. In addition to its important collection of Koorie Aboriginal artefacts, oral history recordings and other documentation, the Trust also hosts an ongoing schedule of exhibitions, artist talks, craft workshops and family activities.

Margaret Lawrence Gallery

Part of the Victorian College of the Arts, the Margaret Lawrence Gallery offers artists (a large proportion of whom are VCA alumni) a platform for experimentation and the luxury of space – a premium in the city. A stones’ throw away from the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Victoria (International), the Margaret Lawrence Gallery will be soon joined by the Michael Buxton Centre of Contemporary Art, a private collection belonging to property developer Michael Buxton.

Sarah Scout Presents

Located in the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street and nestled amongst dentistry practices and optometrists in the heritage-listed Victor Horsley Chambers, Sarah Scout Presents places an emphasis on presenting challenging work, a bold move for a commercial gallery.

TCB Art Inc.

Blink and you’ll miss it; TCB is found deep in Chinatown and down a quintessential Melbourne laneway. Look out for the sideways basketball hoop over the door and make your way upstairs to the artist-run, independent space that has held on to its prime location despite rent increases everywhere else. A rite of exhibition passage for many emerging artists, TCB’s two galleries have played host to many an artist’s first solo exhibition.

TCB Art Inc.

TCB Art Inc.

 West Space

One of Melbourne’s foremost artist-run initiatives, West Space is located in the former Commonwealth Bank building on Bourke Street. Ring the buzzer for access and make your way to the first floor, which is occupied entirely by West Space. The gallery has presented works by hundreds of artists, making it a space to watch both by industry peers and collectors. Make sure you also have a look at the book cart by World Food Books, featuring a thoughtful selection of art and artist books.

Is / Is Not, curated by Kiron Robinson, West Space, 2016. Photo: Christo Crocker.

Is / Is Not, curated by Kiron Robinson, West Space, 2016. Photo: Christo Crocker.

Find your next #melbmoment and see more of Kim’s artistic view of Melbourne on Instagram – @kimbrockett – including her favourite galleries and artists, and the adventures of her pet pooch Charlie.