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Heide Museum of Modern Art
Photograph: Visit Victoria/ Emily Floyd

The best free art galleries in Melbourne

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

Written by
Time Out editors
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Getting up close to world-class art shouldn't cost a fortune. We know that, and thankfully, so do many of Melbourne's best art galleries. From small commercial galleries to some of the biggest in the state, we've rounded up our favourite spots to peruse art for nada when your wallet is looking a little thin. 

RECOMMENDED: Here's where to find the best street art in Melbourne

Free art spots in Melbourne

  • Attractions
  • Libraries
  • Melbourne

The library was established in 1856 and is a grand presence on Swanston Street, with interior spaces to match. The La Trobe Reading Room is a six-storey-high domed room that is magnificent to look at. Beautiful artworks depicting Victoria’s history are exhibited in the Cowen Gallery for visitors to peruse. North and south rotundas and the Keith Murdoch gallery also hold exhibitions and artworks. Oh, and you can polish your chess skills for free too.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Bulleen

The synthesis of indoor and outdoor art spanning over 16 acres, Heide houses Melbourne’s modernist art scene as well as view contemporary works. Heide was the home to artists such as Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan – and you can even check out the original house. Entry to the gardens and Sculpture Park is free but there is often an entry fee for exhibitions inside the museum.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Southbank

Hands-down the most well-known gallery in Victoria, with over 70,000 works from all disciplines. Large, international exhibitions often take centre 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.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Richmond

Seventh Gallery focuses on unearthing new and exciting young artists – many times exhibiting their first solo show. They also focus on supporting culturally diverse voices, as well as experimental art.

Delivering a new exhibition every four weeks across three galleries, they provide emerging artists a free space to show, and also pay those artists a nominal fee. Visitors are also able to view shows for free. Seventh also has an Emerging Writers Program for new writers interested in art, and also hold a range of readings, workshops, talks and live events.

Anna Schwartz Gallery
  • Art
  • Melbourne

Anna Schwartz is one formidable being in the arts, and her name can stir fear or admiration in any arts newbie. She has had a hand in creating 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.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • 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.

  • Art
  • Fitzroy

Not the largest in town, but we think it’s one of best contemporary art galleries. Due to its size, it only exhibits one artist or group at a time on a monthly rotation, 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 coming up in the space, as they celebrate 30 years in Fitzroy.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Preston

A dead giveaway that the Gertrude is having an exhibition opening is the sea of hipsters gathered outside their expansive 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 it's firmly on the radar for all the cool kids. 

The gallery 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.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Southbank

Located on the corner opposite the National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne Theatre Company's Southbank Theatre, Buxton Contemporary is the home of Melbourne property developer and collector Michael Buxton's art collection. 

The 2,200 square metre gallery is designed by leading Australian architects Fender Katsalidis, the team behind Hobart's MONA. It features five large galleries and a teaching space, as the building is part of the University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts.

More thrifty thrills in Melbourne

  • Things to do

They say the best things in life are free. We're not 100 per cent on board with that sentiment (have you had a perfectly prepared cocktail? That ain't cheap), but not everything in Melbourne has to cost a bunch of money. From art shows to wine tastings, there are a bunch of things to do in this fine city that you can do for free. Yep, free. Zilch. Nada. Zero dollars. 

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