In our round-up of some of Australia’s top city and regional galleries, we show you where to go to view some of the best art collections in the country.
Australia’s capital cities are home to some incredibly expansive and world-class art galleries, with a vast array of homegrown and international work among the collections.
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney NSW
More than one million people a year visit the beautiful Art Gallery of NSW, located in Sydney’s picturesque Domain. The first collections were acquired in the 1870s, with the exhibitions moved to their current location in 1885 and the building that serves as the home of the gallery erected between 1896 and 1909. Entry to the permanent galleries is free, as are most events and exhibitions. Visitors can browse contemporary works as well as those by 19th century Australian artists and European Old Masters in rooms that also offer views over Sydney and its harbour. Dedicated galleries showcase works by Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists, as well as a separate gallery that celebrates the arts of Asia. More than 30 temporary exhibitions are displayed each year, along with the annual flagship event, the Archibald Prize. Visitors can also take in regular lectures and seminars, films, music and performances, as well as dine in the onsite café and restaurant.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne Vic
Melbourne’s NGV was established in 1861 and holds more than 70,000 works in its collection. The oldest gallery in the country, it is also the most frequently visited – and spans two significant buildings. At NGV International on St Kilda Road, visitors will find an extensive collection from Europe, Asia, America and Oceania. Meanwhile NGV Australia, located at the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, is considered the home of Australian art, where visitors can view works by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian artists from the colonial period until the present day. NGV International has three different dining venues within its facility, including a restaurant, café and tea rooms, while NGV Australia has a café for patrons.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide SA
Located in a beautiful heritage building in Adelaide, the Art Gallery of South Australia welcomes about 780,000 visitors each year. Founded in 1881, the gallery’s collection includes 42,000 works of art and design pieces from Australia, Europe, North America and Asia. In addition to painting, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery, the gallery is also known for its display of Australian furniture, dating from colonial times to the modern day. There’s an extensive collection of Australian art from European settlement in the early 19th century to the present day, including one of the world’s most important collections of Australian Indigenous art. The gallery also has the only dedicated Islamic gallery space in Australia.
National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra ACT
NGA is one of the largest art museums in Australia, holding more than 166,000 works of art. Its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection comprises more than 7500 works and is the largest in the world. Where possible, paintings and sculptures in the Indigenous galleries are illuminated overhead by natural daylight to replicate the same light in which the works were created. NGA’s collection of international art is Australia’s greatest collection of modern art, spanning the mid-19th century to the present day, and including pieces of European, American and British art. In addition to the indoor spaces, visitors can also view the outdoor Sculpture Garden, Fern Garden and also Skyspace – a sky viewing chamber by American artist James Turrell. The gallery has two cafes on site, one of which overlooks the Sculpture Garden.
Dubbo Regional Gallery, Dubbo NSW
Visitors to Dubbo can stop at the Western Plains Cultural Centre where artworks are featured in four galleries at the Dubbo Regional Gallery, spread over 706 square metres, and including a space devoted to the moving image. The gallery features large touring and in-house curated exhibitions, smaller touring exhibitions and solo shows, regional artists and a permanent Children’s Gallery. There’s a focus on the ‘animals in art’ theme, inspired by the rural location and proximity to Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Works span a broad range of media and styles by artists from many locations. Also at the Western Plains Cultural Centre is the Dubbo Regional Museum Heritage Collection, established in 1954.
TYTO Regional Art Gallery, Ingham Qld
This multi-dimension space, an hour’s drive north of Townsville, is an easily accessible built environment of 10 hectares that consists of a regional art gallery, conference venue, library with mini military museum, wetlands, parklands and a café. Open 365 days a year, the venue attracts about 150,000 visitors annually from nearby and afar. Located in the heart of Hinchinbrook, the gallery makes for a handy day trip or overnight stopover. From TYTO you can explore the natural beauty of World Heritage-listed Hinchinbrook Island, and Wallaman Falls – the largest single-drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. The contemporary art gallery space showcases local artists through its annual program and retail outlet, as well as national travelling exhibits within the gallery. Open daily with free entry.
Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery, Port Pirie SA
This South Australian regional gallery is housed within the Port Pirie Visitor Information Centre, adjacent to the silos and wharf area in the city of Port Pirie. Each year a diverse program of exhibitions runs in its space with a focus on regional South Australian artists, and it also hosts national touring exhibitions from major Australian cultural institutions to develop exhibitions of community interest. The not-for-profit organisation was established in 1992, firstly in the old baggage room of the closed passenger railway station. In 1994 the redevelopment of the station into the Regional Tourism and Arts Centre meant the addition of a dedicated A-class art gallery.
Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery, Cradle Mountain Tas
On the edge of the UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is the 12-room Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery, opened in 2003. The space incorporates large installations, exhibitions, displays and film. There’s a focus on Tasmanian photographers, with more than 3000 photos in the collection, and the gallery is dedicated to showcasing local artists as well as the wilderness around Cradle Mountain. Children’s rooms provide spaces for visitors to explore, draw and play; the Peter Dombrovskis Gallery is dedicated to an internationally celebrated photographer; the Movie Room features all-day screenings of Tasmanian films; while Five Galleries displays contemporary works that are changed throughout the year, all made by Tasmanian artists. The Gallery is part of Cradle Mountain Hotel, where visitors can dine at Altitude Restaurant + Lounge Bar.
Bunbury Regional Art Galleries (BRAG), Bunbury WA
Spread across two floors of exhibition space, the design of the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries (BRAG) on Western Australia’s south-west coast allows for up to five exhibitions to run at any time, with an exhibition changeover every six weeks. The gallery is housed in an historic, heritage, pink-coloured building, which was a former convent built in 1897 in the Victorian Gothic style. The gallery also holds BRAG Wall showcases for community exhibitions. The City of Bunbury’s permanent art collection is displayed in the Music Room, with works rotating approximately every two months. The galleries are committed to showcasing works by local artists, as well as running regular touring exhibitions of other WA, national and international artists.
Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo Vic
Founded in 1887, the Bendigo Art Gallery is one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional galleries. The ornate interiors reflect the design of the day in the style of grand European tradition – with polished wood floors and ornate plaster arches and cornices. The gallery is home to the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize worth $50,000 – Australia’s richest open painting arts prize, launched in 2003. Permanent collections include Australian art from the 1850s to the present day, art from the Bendigo goldfields, and 19th century European paintings, sculptures and decorative arts. Temporary exhibitions include prominent international exhibitions as well as national touring exhibitions, curated exhibitions and solo exhibitions by contemporary Australian artists. Regular programs and events include guided tours, workshops, talks by arts professionals, films and much more.
Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), Shepparton Vic
Shepparton Art Museum, or SAM, located in the North Central corridor of Victoria, is one of Australia’s leading art museums. The gallery, established in 1936, plays a major role in the thriving arts community of Greater Shepparton, contributing to community engagement and economic benefits for the region. A significant aspect of SAM’s work is the biennial Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award, and the national Indigenous Ceramic Art Award. SAM holds one of Australia’s leading collections of historic and contemporary Australian ceramics. The gallery continues to focus on acquiring Australian ceramics and contemporary Australian art, as well as international ceramics and contemporary Indigenous Australian ceramics.