Australia may be a young nation, but it has a rich cultural history. That history can best be seen in the hundreds of art galleries that proliferate in all our major cities. There are so many galleries out there; it’s obvious how much we love our art.
In celebration of this rich cultural heritage and artistic passion we’ve built over the past 200 years, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten art galleries we think are must-visits across Australia. Have you been to them all?
1. National Gallery of Australia
Founded in Canberra in 1967, the National Gallery of Australia may not be the oldest art gallery in the country, but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most revered. This is the place to come to view local and international artworks and exhibitions, with over 160,000 works of art.
The collection spreads itself across four main areas: Australian art, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Asian art and European and American art. The Australian collection deserves particular mention for its Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan.
[Image sourced from National Gallery of Australia]
Address: Parkes Place, Canberra.
2. National Gallery of Victoria
Established in 1861, the National Gallery of Victoria, more commonly called the NGV, is Australia’s oldest public art gallery.
It is made up of the NGV International, which houses an extensive collection from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania, and the Ian Potter Centre, home to the NGV’s Australian collection.
The NGV contains over 68,000 artworks with about 87 percent of its records available for viewing. That makes it the largest state art collection in Australia.
It is particularly lauded for its yearly themed Winter Masterpieces exhibitions, which in the past have featured Impressionism, Dutch Masters and Art Deco.
NGV International – 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
The Ian Potter Centre – Federation Square.
3. Museum of New and Old Art (MONA)
This state-of-the-art Tasmanian gallery is Australia’s largest privately owned museum. It is home to a range of exhibits, from Egyptian antiquities to modern and contemporary art. Although it’s a baby on the gallery scene (its doors opened in 2011), it has become one of Hobart’s major tourist attractions.
Address: 655 Main Road, Berriedale, Hobart.
4. Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA)
Established in 1881, this gallery has a magnificent collection of Australian, European, North American and Asian works. It has the second largest state art collection in Australia with some 38,000 works of art. Over half a million people visit the gallery yearly.
What’s special about this museum? Aside from its vast collection, AGSA has the only dedicated Islamic gallery space in Australia, along with galleries dedicated to Southeast Asian, Indian and Japanese art. It also has a large collection of Pre-Raphaelite works.
Address: North Terrace, Adelaide.
5. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
The ACCA is the number one space for contemporary art in Melbourne. In fact, it’s also the only major public gallery in Australia that focuses on commissioning artworks rather than collecting them.
The first ACCA exhibition in 1983 was housed in a small cottage. Today, its home is an architectural marvel of steel, metal and glass that is now a famous landmark in Melbourne.
[Image sourced from Revelateur Studio]
Address: 111 Sturt Street, Southbank, Melbourne.
6. Art Gallery of New South Wales
Sydney’s main art gallery was established in 1874 and has since had time to build up a copious collection of international and Australian fine art.
Its modern and contemporary works are displayed in a light and airy room with views of Sydney and its beautiful harbour. But what we like most about this museum are its dedicated galleries celebrating Asian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Address: Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney.
7. National Portrait Gallery
This Canberra gallery is exemplary for its efforts to increase the understanding and appreciation of Australia’s residents. It’s one of Australia’s youngest cultural institutions, but already it has some 400 portraits of influential Australians.
Among the portraits on display are Howard Arkley’s iconic airbrushed portrait of Nick Cave, Bill Henson’s triptych of conductor Simone Young and Ah Xian’s ceramic bust of Dr John Yu.
Address: King Edward Terrace, Parkes, Canberra.
8. The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)
Brisbane’s first class sister galleries have big plans for expansion. The Queensland National Art Gallery was opened in 1895 with a collection of 38 pictures, 70 engravings and one marble bust.
More than 100 years later the Gallery of Modern Art was opened as a complementary site to the original art gallery. Artwork from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are showcased within.
One of the best parts of these museums is the Children’s Art Centre, where the gallery focuses on making art interesting for children.
Address: Stanley Place, Cultural Precinct, South Bank, Brisbane.
9. Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)
Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography was started in 1986 by a small group of local photographers and writers who lamented the poor treatment of photography in the art world. It has since grown into its role as one of Australia’s pre-eminent galleries for the exhibition of contemporary photography.
The gallery comprises five spaces used to showcase new and emerging artists from Australia and around the world. It also includes a detailed background and history of photography for visitors.
Address: 404 George Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
10. Art Gallery of Western Australia
There’s something unique about the Art Gallery of Western Australia: its location. In one of the most isolated cities in Australia, the gallery has formed a strong focus on art from Australia and the Indian Ocean Rim. It has a large number of Western Australian Indigenous and non-indigenous art.
The gallery’s home is likewise unusual. The museum is held in a precinct of 3 heritage buildings, with historical collection housed in the Heritage-listed former Perth Police Courts.
Perth’s main gallery is a modernist building inspired by the pavilions and courtyards of the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. It is designed around 120 degree angles with a cast concrete spiral staircase and spacious vistas across gallery spaces.
Address: Perth Cultural Centre, Perth.
Australia has a true treasure trove of art galleries, big and small, private and public. It’s up to you to explore to your heart’s content. You may find a hidden gem of a gallery exhibiting an obscure artist whose works blow you away. You may be the first to see the Next Big Thing. So get out there and discover the cultural precincts your city has to offer.
Richard Tarrant - Bio
Richard is founder and CEO of PictureStore and has worked since October 2000 to make wall art accessible to all Australians. Google+