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The best artist-run initiatives (ARIs) in Melbourne

Looking for the cutting edge of Melbourne's famous art scene? Check out these galleries and initiatives run by artists.

By Sarah Werkmeister |
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Bus Projects 2018
Performance by Angela Goh as part of 'Lessons from Dancing' curated by Zoe Theodore. Photograph: Keelan O'Hehir.

They say Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia, but what makes it thrive is the artists living or working in the city, and doing it for themselves. Melbourne’s artist-run initiatives are an essential part of the larger ecosystem that gives the city its famed title. And they’re varied – some above restaurants, others tucked in with shared office spaces, others roving and without a permanent space at all, and of course, others acting as street-facing high street galleries.

Recommended: the best free art galleries in Melbourne.

Caves Gallery 2018
Kate Ellis, 'Untitled'
Art, Galleries

Caves

Melbourne

Who said painting was dead? Certainly not C A V E S (yes, that’s how it’s styled), that’s for sure. Aside from showing paintings, the gallery also shows small object sculpture and photography by primarily local artists, but also artists from across the country and the world.

Blak Dot Gallery interior view 01 supplied 2017 Opening
Photograph: supplied
Art, Galleries

Blak Dot Gallery

Brunswick

Blak Dot showcases contemporary and traditional First Nations art, and is currently Melbourne’s only Indigenous-run art gallery with a physical space. It was established in 2011, and in 2016 moved to its current premises behind the Brunswick baths.

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Bus Projects 2018
Photograph: Trevor Mein
Art, Galleries

Bus Projects

Collingwood

Founded in 2001, Bus Projects is one of Melbourne’s busiest artist-run initiatives, with upwards of 50 exhibitions per year across multiple gallery spaces, as well as music events, experimental art programs and educational workshops. It’s firmed itself up as one of Melbourne’s foremost contemporary galleries showcasing local, national and international art. 

Kings artist run initiative 2018
Youjia Lu 'Super(im)position'
Art, Galleries

Kings

Melbourne

Another of Melbourne’s stalwart artist-run spaces, Kings has been around since 2003. Over the past 15 years, the gallery has continued to support local and national artists working with contemporary art and experimental practice. It’s run by a collective of artists, writers and curators.

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Seventh Gallery 2018
Renee Estee, 'Love Far From Home'
Art, Galleries

Seventh Gallery

Fitzroy

Seventh Gallery is the only gallery left standing on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street (Gertrude Contemporary moved to Preston a few years back). They host exhibitions, public programs, and run an emerging writers program. Their motto is to support experimental practice in art, writing and curatorial practice across a diverse range of both artists and mediums.

c3 Contemporary Art Space 2018
Photograph: Supplied
Art, Galleries

c3 Contemporary Art Space

Abbotsford

Housed in the ever-glorious Abbotsford Convent grounds, c3 has multiple galleries and encourages artists to take risks. They base their model on both that of a traditional publicly-funded gallery and that of an artist-run-initiative – it’s a massive space and there’s always plenty of buzz, but their ethos is a community-led and artist-run philosophy.

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Women's Art Register
Photograph: Supplied
Art

Women's Art Register

Richmond

While not so much a gallery and more of an archive, the Women’s Art Register works with women (including non-binary and trans women) as a community resource for women’s art in Australia, largely maintained with the assistance of artists, writers and curators. 

Looking to step outside the gallery?

Croft Alley, Melbourne Street Art 2017, Photo credit: Graham Denholm
Photograph: Graham Denholm
Art, Street art

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Sure, street art covers almost every nook and cranny of our creative, colourful city, but there are more highly concentrated clusters than others. These are the street art hotspots that any self-respecting 'grammer should be snapping: the city's ten best street mural hotspots, in all their spray-painted laneway glory. 

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