Jen is a fourth year art history student, though this is her first year at Unimelb (she’s from NZ, don’t hold it against her). When she’s not at uni, Jen will be out getting to know Melbourne and all it has to offer.
The uni gallery has a lot to offer and it’s a great place to go and clear your head for a bit before getting back to that essay, but if you’ve already seen the current exhibition, you’re probably wanting somewhere else to go.
Luckily for you and your need for cultural stimulation (or simply a break from uni and its stresses) there are other places nearby that you can go and get your art fix.
These galleries are all small exhibition spaces and collections, meaning they are perfect for that quick study break before you have to go back to the real world – and they are definitely worth a look.
Situated in the gorgeous Rathdowne Village, this gallery gives you three for one and a little bit of everything between them. The first gallery houses a fine collection of early Australian and contemporary prints, meaning whatever you’re in to, they’ll have it. You can also see a grand display of Asian art dating anywhere from last year to a few centuries ago; these are pieces that the owners personally collected while living there.
If you keep going further into the space, you’ll end up in Australia’s oldest gallery, the Joshua McClelland Print Room, which was established over 90 years ago. 103-year-old Joan McClelland is still very much a part of its operation, and if you happen to go to the gallery when she’s around, I bet she would have some incredible stories to share. Her daughter and son-in-law, Phillipa and Bill, run the gallery day to day and are extremely happy to answer any questions students have about art and the history of their pieces.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find any excuse to end up on Brunswick Street, so when you’re there next, make sure to check out Sutton Gallery. Do not be fooled by the industrial façade: the interior has the perfect feel of wide open spaces, bright lighting and lots of wall space that suits contemporary art so well. New exhibitions are put on every six weeks: the last one featured Matt Hinkley and was on until April 13th. Also, if you’re ever curious as to what sorts of prices contemporary Aussie artists are selling their work for, commercial galleries like Sutton are the perfect place to go. If you’ve got a spare $12,500, Hinkley’s work is up for grabs!
The Printmaker Gallery boasts a collection of over one hundred artists, mostly Australian but with some international names in there too. Established in 1975, the gallery focuses on original prints: lithographs, wood cuts, any kind of print you can think of. Most of the time they will have their own collection on display, but five times a year they put on solo or group exhibitions. The exhibition I saw when I visited was by Melbourne’s own Paul Compton. His work can be seen here.
Despite its two entrances (one through 62 Lygon Street and the other through Artee Cafe), Steps Gallery is known to be a little hidden. Upon entering I was asked, “How did you find us?!” but I was incredibly welcome. Steps is perhaps one of Melbourne’s best smaller galleries because it gives visitors the opportunity to meet the artists. I spoke with three of the four artists exhibiting and was given wonderful insights into their processes and inspirations. The artists at Steps have so much to do with the organisation and curation of their exhibitions, meaning that you are given a much more intimate look at their art the way they intended it to be looked at.
I know there’s always a fear of having a “she doesn’t even go here” moment at another university’s gallery, but if you can put that aside for the sake of art then the RMIT Gallery is definitely worth a look. A recent exhibition showcased 130 years of photography at RMIT through over 100 examples of work by RMIT staff and alumni since 1887. This was on until the 13th of April (a lot of Melbourne’s galleries seem to be on the same cycle!) Go on, get over yourself and have a look. Their entire exhibition schedule for the year can be seen here.