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Ten Contemporary Melbourne Galleries Where You Can See Exceptional Art for Free

Ten spots to see fresh art for zero dollars.
By Hudson Brown
May 30, 2017
By Hudson Brown
May 30, 2017

As the major galleries across Melbourne and Victoria continue to offer some of the very best in local and international art exhibitions, we're riding the wave underground for a peek into the local spaces pushing creative boundaries and celebrating art for art's sake. While Melbourne maintains a stellar cultural reputation that goes toe-to-toe with the likes of London, New York and Tokyo, it's the local art spaces presenting works from newcomers, emerging and celebrated artists alike, that spur on our city's love for art and culture.

Here, we've chosen ten of the best free contemporary art spaces where you can see what keeps Melbourne's art world ticking.


Since Tinning Street Presents' beginnings in 2009, the gallery's focus on emerging and early-career artists has made it a hotspot for progressive, contemporary art. Throughout the year, Tinning Street Presents hosts a varied line-up of artists across visual mediums ranging from painting, photography, sculpture to film and performance. Brunswick's Tinning Street is lined end-to-end with likeminded galleries, workshops and cafes with Tinning Street Presents central to the creative beat embraced by the area.

Now showing: Frances Cannon – Niceties until Sunday June 4.

Coming soon: Noah Spivak – Eigengrau from Thursday June 8 to Sunday June 25.


Having opened in May 2016, Junior Space is the newest gallery on our list. The dynamic space houses a retail area where you can pick your way through handcrafted ceramics, magazines, zines and prints from local artists and publishers, while the upstairs gallery space sees a constantly evolving selection of leading local artists.

In celebration of their first year, Junior Space is currently hosting One — a group show exhibiting works from many of the gallery's favourite artists, such as Peter Tarasiuk and Nicholas Wilkins — until Wednesday, June 7.


West Space provides an important opportunity for contemporary artists to develop experimental works within a bold environment. An artist-led, not-for-profit organisation, their exhibition program sees a mix of open-call applications and curated projects. Despite growing in size over the years, West Space maintains its ethos of assisting budding artists by offering a rent-free space and, as of this year, paying fees to all artists in its program. See the program for current and upcoming exhibitions.


Bus Projects is another prominent artist-run initiative and has been dedicated to supporting interdisciplinary art practices for the past 15 years. Previously located in the CBD, Bus Projects moved into a Collingwood space designed by leading architecture practice John Wardle Architects in 2013. Their primary focus is on spatial art practices – bringing the gallery to life through immersive sound, installation and video exhibitions.

Multiple exhibitions are currently on display, so head to the Bus Projects website to what's taking place now and in the near future.


Located on the seventh level of Swanston Street's historic Nicholas Building, Blindside Gallery features great sights both inside and out — containing outstanding contemporary art as well as some amazing views of Federation Square and Flinders Street. Blindside describe themselves as a place to "expect the unexpected", which is reflected through their carefully curated program of dynamic sculpture, performance and new media exhibitions. Arts writing is also a key component of Blindside's efforts, with each exhibition accompanied by texts contextualising works for visitors.

Now showing: No Woman is an Island (group exhibition) until Saturday May 27.

Coming soon: James Parkinson – Now You've Done It from Wednesday May 31 until Saturday June 17.


Housed in the iconic Abbotsford Convent — a series of heritage buildings converted into major cultural and creative hub — c3 Contemporary Art Space features three large dynamic areas comprising six smaller rooms. Built nearly ten years ago by donated labour on a shoestring budget, c3 has emerged as a leading contemporary art space that features work by artists pushing boundaries in art, architecture, design, fashion, web-based art and more.

Head to the c3 Contemporary Art Space website to see the current and upcoming exhibition program.


Chapter House Lane is distinctly different to any other art space on our list. The space is situated next to St. Paul's Cathedral, with the art of emerging and mid-career artists being freely presented inside several large street-facing windows. The gallery chooses the work of artists that respond to the unique and creative space — in both its limitations and possibilities — resulting in numerous unconventional exhibitions and events.

Now showing: Kate Robertson – Recording the medicinal plants of Siwai, Bougainville until Friday June 30


MARS Gallery, aka Melbourne Art Rooms, is an extensive three-level space that has promoted contemporary works by hundreds of local and international artists. Originally based in a former dairy factory in Port Melbourne, the gallery relocated a couple of years ago to a purpose-designed building in Windsor. MARS offers a massive diversity of arts programs and services, regularly participating in art fairs and commissioning public art projects.

Now showing: As Long as the Night Is Dark, curated by Simon Pericich, until Saturday June 3


The largest multipurpose arts centre in Melbourne's western suburbs, Newport's The Substation inhabits a 100-year-old electrical substation. Maintaining a raw aesthetic, its high-arched windows and towering ceilings make this gallery one of the most visually impressive sites on this list. The gallery aims to connect new audiences to the work of new artists, who respond to the unique setting, often through performance mediums like music, comedy and theatre.

Now showing: Brooke Andrew – The Cell from Friday May 26 until Saturday June 10


Metro Gallery has long built its reputation on supporting new and established contemporary Australian artists. One of the first commercial venues in Melbourne to bring street art into a formal gallery space, Metro continues to evolve by working with artists across numerous mediums and from varied stages in their careers. Located in the trendy heart of High Street, Armadale, Metro Gallery has featured the likes of John Olsen, Michael Johnson, Adnate, Alexander Hoda, Tommy Watson and many more.

Now showing: Lani Mitchell – Kind from Friday May 26 until Saturday June 10.

Published on May 30, 2017 by Hudson Brown
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