After you’ve explored the big names dotted along Melbourne’s arts precinct and seen all that Flinders Lane has to offer, take a step outside the norm and check out more of Melbourne’s free art galleries. From the heights of Swanston Street’s heritage buildings to the contemporary feats within Docklands, these are the places you need to visit for your next cultural fix.
Some galleries are invisible from street level… look up!
Take the lift to the fourth floor of an art deco building on Exhibition Street (between Collins and Little Collins streets) and step into the rarefied atmosphere of Tolarno Galleries. Famed for its reflective dark polished concrete floors, the gallery has been in operation since 1967 and has been under the helm of Jan Minchin since 1993. Tolarno represents some of Australia’s most well-known artists, from Ben Quilty and Bill Henson to Patricia Piccinini and Rosemary Laing. Visit in June and July to see Melbourne artists Andrew Browne with paintings of silvery water falling and the effects of light, while Benjamin Armstrong shows a beautiful series of prints in his first solo show since 2012.
On level 1 of the City Village on Bourke Street, West Space is a not-for-profit contemporary art space that blends the creative freedom and risk-taking of an artist-run space with the professional infrastructure of a contemporary art institution. Leading local and international artists are supported and mentored in their practice, resulting in works that are experimental and challenging. From 5 July to 18 August, photographer Phebe Schmidt and installation and video artist Kate Power present When you open your mouth to speak. Both artists consider the way we relate to one another and absurd social constructions.
Up an unassuming, narrow flight of stairs on busy King Street, KINGS Artist Run supports distinctive experimental projects by artists at all stages of their careers. From June to August, KINGS supports an emerging writers program with the aim of providing a platform for further critical discourse around the KINGS Exhibition Program. Check What’s On for updates on upcoming winter exhibitions.
The Nicholas Building
A hub for creatives and designers, this remarkable building is also a hotspot for galleries. Going up!
Head to level 2 to find Kimono House, a beautiful space dedicated to Japanese textiles and craft. A limited collection of contemporary shibori textile accessories selected from the studios of Kyoto designers will be available in the Kimono House shop throughout the Melbourne winter months.
An intimate not-for-profit space on level 6, Caves quickly made its mark upon opening in 2015 with the distinctive curatorial eye of directors Storm Gold and Kez Hughes. Upcoming exhibitions include the collaborative duo Nigel Lendon / Lucina Lane in June-July and sculptor Kate Ellis in July-August. A second space across the hall is also in the works.
On level 7 is Blindside, a not-for-profit and artist-run space. Here artists and curators at all career stages present exhibitions, performances, screenings and ephemeral projects that strive to activate and expand the possibilities of contemporary art. Upcoming exhibitions include Unfathoming, which brings together new work around the experience that time today is increasingly contradictory and incongruous and Visible Absence by Nick James Archer and Alex Walker. Both exhibitions run Wednesday 1 to Saturday 18 August.
Cage Me a Peacock
Also on level 7 is the eccentric artist-run not-for-profit gallery, Cage Me a Peacock. A space for challenging interdisciplinary artists, audiences can expect a diverse range of artistic practices in an intimate setting. Check What’s On for current exhibition details.
Part of the Docklands Art Collective, Crowther Contemporary is run by artist Jonathan Crowther for early career artists and curators to develop their practice in a supportive environment. Visit from Thursday 2 August for Narratives- Realties, fictionalising the present and contaminating the fantastical wilderness, a new exhibition from artist Ara Dolatian, whose interdisciplinary practice explores the relationship between cultural landscapes and the natural ecosystem.
Dark Horse Experiment
With a mission to show works that push the boundaries, Dark Horse Experiment, located at the front of the Blenders Studios creative hub at District Docklands, presents ‘contemporary art research’ in any medium. Director Adrian Doyle shares the curatorial responsibility with emerging curators, striving to maintain the experimental aspect in every exhibition. Stroll past at night as the gallery’s Melbourne Projection Window turns all the front windows into an artist run projection space. Blenders Studios external mural wall, used by the studio’s artists to create and test new work, is another feature worth hunting out.
Want to see more of Melbourne’s amazing art? Check out part one of our free gallery guide.