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Buxton Contemporary 2018 photo James Geer
Photograph: James Geer

The best free art galleries in Melbourne

Spend some time at Melbourne’s top ten free art spots

By Jess Ho and Time Out editors

Getting up close to world-class art shouldn't cut a healthy slice out of your salary. We know that, and thankfully, so do many of Melbourne's best art galleries. From small commercial galleries to the big players, we've rounded up our favourites spots for looking at art when the wallet is thin. 

For more thrifty thrills, check out our cheap things to do in Melbourne or our list of cheap eats under $20.

Free art spots in Melbourne

1. State Library of Victoria

Attractions Libraries Melbourne

The name of the building is misleading. The grand dame of Swanston Street is a library but it offers more than just books. Significant parts of the library are currently closed for renovations, but the Cowen Gallery has plenty of important Australian art on display. Oh and you can polish your chess skills for free too. Melbourne.

2. Anna Schwartz Gallery

Art Melbourne

Anna Schwartz is one formidable being in the arts and her name can stir fear or admiration. She has had a hand in creating names, careers and previously had another space of the same name in Sydney. Her gallery has played host to a bevy of exhibitions: drawings by Peter Booth, sculpture by Ian Burns, photography by John Young and prints by Mike Parr. Melbourne.


3. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art - ACCA

Art Southbank

Suitably located next to the Victorian College of Arts, the ACCA is a non-for-profit gallery and one of the most recognisable buildings in Melbourne with its imposing red-rust structure designed by Wood Marsh. Showcasing group exhibitions of sculpture, video, installation, photography, print and paint. Melbourne.

Sutton Gallery
Photograph: Josie Withers

4. Sutton Gallery

Art Fitzroy

Not the largest in town, but we think it’s one of the best contemporary art galleries. Due to its size, it only exhibits one artist at a time and is well worth a visit on a lazy Saturday afternoon followed by a few beers on Brunswick Street. Look out for paint and photography exhibitions. Fitzroy.

Gertrude Contemporary 2018
Photograph: Supplied

5. Gertrude Contemporary

Art Preston

The dead give away that the Gertrude is having an exhibition opening is the sea of hipsters gathered outside the big window. It’s not surprising then that this place is so popular: not only does it showcase up and coming Melbourne and international artists, but allows for development before the big reveal. It is definitely worth a look for, more often than not, large-scale sculptures of mixed media which will definitely open your mind to more ambitious creative concepts. Preston.

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

6. Seventh Gallery

Art Fitzroy

This multi-room, not-for-profit gallery is artist-run and features young, contemporary local artists from a range of disciplines and levels. You’ll find immature and well-developed artists sharing the same space. Seventh is an ambitious gallery which has grown into its own over the last few years. Check it out. Fitzroy.

NGV International
Photograph: Supplied

7. NGV International

Art Southbank

Hands-down the most well-known gallery in Victoria with over 70,000 works from all disciplines. Large, international exhibitions often take stage, but the NGV-owned collections are a history’s worth of viewing. If you venture to Fed Square, you’ll find the Ian Potter Centre, another branch of the NGV that houses Indigenous art from the colonial to contemporary, and exhibits the works of contemporary artists. Melbourne.

Buxton Contemporary 2018 photo James Geer
Photograph: James Geer

8. Buxton Contemporary

Art Galleries Southbank

Located on the corner opposite the National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne Theatre Company's Southbank Theatre, Buxton Contemporary is the new home of Melbourne property developer and collector Michael Buxton's art collection. He’s got a great eye for contemporary Australasian art, and his first exhibition included work by Patricia Piccinini, Mikala Dwyer, Emily Floyd, Marco Fusinato and Shaun Gladwell. Southbank.

Heide Museum of Modern Art
Photograph: Jeremy Weihrauch

9. Heide Museum of Modern Art

Art Bulleen

If you can muster a journey to the suburbs, Heide houses Melbourne’s modernist art scene as well as view contemporary works. The synthesis of indoor and outdoor art spanning over 16 acres, Heide has also recently unveiled a new building. Heide was the home to artists such as Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan. Entry to the gardens and Sculpture Park is free but there is often an entry fee for exhibitions inside the museum. Bulleen.

10. Centre for Contemporary Photography

Art Fitzroy

The name says it all. Set up in the mid 80s as a not-for-profit exhibition and resource centre, the CCP still holds photography courses for beginners and those wanting to further their skills. There are five spaces within the building and at night, especially if you’re drinking at the Marquis of Lorne, you’ll view a range of works from emerging and established photographers from the Night Projection Window. Fitzroy.

More thrifty thrills in Melbourne

Birrarung Marr
Photograph: Roberto Seba

Cheap things to do in Melbourne

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