Free galleries to explore in Melbourne – part two

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.

Vertical Galleries

Tolarno Galleries

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 artist Dan Moynihan’s solo show ‘Mixed Emotions‘, inspired by (and born out of) the paint samples at a Bunnings in Moorabbin. 

A sculpture of a man and paintings in a modern art gallery space

Tolarno Galleries

West Space 

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. Visit from 1 July to experience the six-week long takeover of the gallery by artist collective ‘this mob’, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists will be sharing, creating and discussing their artwork.  

KINGS Artist-Run

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 out their June exhibitions here.

Crowther Contemporary

Part of the Docklands Art Collective, Crowther Contemporary is located at the District Docklands. Run by artist Jonathan Crowther, the site offers space for early career artists and curators to develop their practice in a supportive environment. 

The Nicholas Building

A hub for creatives and designers, this remarkable building is also a hotspot for galleries. Going up!

Kimono House

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.

A mannequin dressed in a kimono

Kimono House

Caves

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. Previous exhibitions have included work from collaborative duo Nigel Lendon / Lucina Lane and sculptor Kate Ellis in July-August. A second space across the hall is also in the works.

Blindside

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 There is a Wall Dissolving, featuring site responsive displays from artists Stephanie Hosler and Erin Hallyburton – think quilts moisturised with lard, white walls painted with cosmetics and sound-absorbing textiles. Running until 13 July.

A view of a church from a window in a gallery

Blindside

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.

Want to see more of Melbourne’s amazing art? Check out part one of our free gallery guide.