The Twelve Most Impressive Art Galleries in Regional Australia
From country Victoria to the WA coast to the Tiwi Islands, these galleries house homegrown and Indigenous art collections worth planning a whole weekend around.
A trip to an Australian gallery is well worth the effort, no matter what your taste in art may be. Architecture has been able to take dramatic relationships with surrounding landscapes because of our wide open spaces, and the art scene is just as diverse. Shepparton, Albury, Tweed heads, and Hobart are all great destinations where you can see some of the most impressive ceramic collections in the country as well as some of the best travelling blockbusters in the country.
MITCHELTON GALLERY OF ABORIGINAL ART — NAGAMBIE, VICTORIA
The Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art is a must-see for anyone interested in experiencing the art of more than 15 remote communities. The epic collection of Aboriginal paintings, drawings, and sculptures housed within Mitchelton Winery is one of the largest in Australia. As an example of the high calibre of work on display, take note of the transformational totemic symbolism found in such works as The Message Stick Vehicle and the monumental paintings of Yannima Tommy Watson, Gabriella possum nungurrayi, and George hairbrush tjungurrayi, all of whom passed away in recent years. When you're done, stop by Mitchelton's new luxury hotel and sample a few wines.
Where? 470 Mitchellstown Road, Nagambie. How far? About 90 minutes north of Melbourne.
MURRAY ART MUSEUM — ALBURY, NSW
It's no surprise that Murray Art Museum Albury (affectionately referred to as MAMA) has been attracting Hume Highway travellers since its $10.5 million makeover in 2010. More than 40 works by Russell Drysdale and the Nagel Bequest, which includes works by John Coburn, Margaret Olley, James Gleeson, and a host of other prominent contemporary indigenous artists, are part of the permanent collection. In the light-filled Canvas eatery, indulge in parmesan scrambled eggs or fluffy hotcakes while you're there. More information on Albury can be found here.
Where? 546 Dean Street, Albury. How far? About 5.5 hours southwest of Sydney, or 3.5 hours northeast of Melbourne on the Victoria–NSW border.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA — CANBERRA, NSW
The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is a popular destination for visitors from Sydney and Melbourne, despite the fact that Canberra is not a regional city (any anyone driving between the two). The National Gallery of Art has a long history of hosting high-profile exhibitions, and for good reason. Jackson Pollock's Blue poles (pictured above) and works by Andy Warhol, James Turrell, and Louise Bourgeois are currently on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art. A collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings on loan from the Tate will be on display at the museum in December, which could be a nice Christmas or New Year's stop if you're driving along the coast for the holidays.
Where? Parkes Place East, Canberra. How far? About three hours south of Sydney, or seven hours north of Melbourne.
TWEED REGIONAL GALLERY — MURWILLUMBAH, NSW
Margaret Olley's studio at 48 Duxford Street, Paddington in Sydney, Australia, was preserved in this gallery until her death in 2011. All of her belongings and paintings were taken to the Tweed Regional Gallery and recreated in a re-creation following her death. Including windows and doors. Olley's contemporary Margaret Cilento, David Strachan, and Cressida Campbell are all represented in the permanent collection, as well as a large number of portraits. The $20,000 Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture is given out every two years.
Where? 2 Mistral Rd, South Murwillumbah. How far? About nine hours north of Sydney, or 90 minutes south of Brisbane.
TARRAWARRA MUSEUM OF ART — HEALESVILLE, VICTORIA
Located in the Yarra Valley, the TarraWarra Museum of Art is a convenient day trip from Melbourne for those interested in country art (or architecture). This stunning structure, which philanthropists Eva AO and Marc AC donated to the community, has a sweeping view of the surrounding vineyards and hills. Inside, you'll find artworks by Jeffrey Smart and Brett Whiteley, as well as works by Arthur Boyd and James Morrison. Then there are the numerous wineries in the Yarra Valley.
Where? 313 Healesville–Yarra Glen Road, Tarrawarra. How far? Only an hour northeast of Melbourne.
TIWI DESIGN — BATHURST ISLAND, NT
As far as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art centres go in Australia, Tiwi Design is one of the first. Bathurst Island, about 92 kilometres from Darwin, is where you'll find it. There are ochre paintings, ironwood carvings, screen-printed fabrics, ceramics, bronze and glass sculptures, and limited edition prints among the collection's many highlights. To top it all off, Tiwi is a working art centre where new pieces are constantly being created. Visiting Tiwi necessitates pre-planning a tour that includes ferry transportation from Darwin, a welcome ceremony, an educational walking tour led by a Tiwi tour guide, an art session, breakfast, and a full-course lunch.
Where? Puantulura Street, Nguiu, Bathurst Island. How far? About 2.5 hours by ferry from Darwin.
MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART — HOBART, TASMANIA
TAS millionaire art collector David Walsh founded the MONA, which is now the largest privately-owned museum in the Southern Hemisphere. Subterranean, labyrinthine spaces are accessed via a spiral staircase that leads to three levels of the gallery built into the Berriedale Peninsula. In honour of the solstice, MONA hosts Dark Mofo, a sex-and-death-themed exhibition that features works from the collection's more than 1900 pieces. Add some foodie excursions to your road trip while you're in Tasmania.
Where? 655 Main Road, Berriedale. How far? About 25 minutes by car or ferry from Hobart city centre.
BENDIGO ART GALLERY — BENDIGO, VICTORIA
The Bendigo Art Gallery, which was established in 1887 and now features a Karl Fender-designed extension, regularly hosts blockbuster touring exhibitions. Among the many Australian exclusives it's secured for fashion and design shows are Marimekko from earlier this year and Maticevski from the Milan Design Week in 2016. After that, there will be an exciting exhibition of Frida Kahlo's personal photo collection, which includes 257 images selected by Mexican photographer and photography historian Pablo Ortiz Monasterio. This will be a fascinating show. The gallery is part of the View Street Arts Precinct, which includes the La Trobe Art Institute, so be sure to explore the area thoroughly before you leave.
Where? 42 View Street, Bendigo. How far? About two hours northwest of Melbourne.
GERALDTON REGIONAL ART GALLERY — GERALDTON, WA
Geraldton Regional Art Gallery opened in the city's heritage-listed town hall building in 1984. Today, it acts as the centrepiece of Geraldton's art scene, through exhibitions, workshops, events and the annual Mid West Art Prize, a $45,000, non-acquisitive award for Western Australian artists. The 475-strong permanent collection includes works by Norman Lindsay, Robert Juniper, Tracey Moffatt, Howard Taylor, Julie Dowling, Hans Heysen and Elizabeth Durack. The City of Geraldton is on the coast, around 400 kilometres north of Perth.
Where? 24 Chapman Road, Geraldton. How far? About 4.5 hours north of Perth.
BROKEN HILL REGIONAL GALLERY — BROKEN HILL, NSW
Broken Hill, New South Wales' oldest regional gallery, was established in 1904. The Palace Hotel, which appeared in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and the majestic Astra, built in the 1890s, are both within walking distance. Located in yet another beautifully restored 19th century building, the gallery features stunning, high-ceilinged interiors. Be on the lookout for classics by Arthur Streeton, Rupert Bunny, and John Olsen, as well as works by renowned Aboriginal artists like Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Emily Kame Kngwarre, and Michael Nelson Tjackamarra. Check out our weekender's guide to Broken Hill for more information.
Where? 404–408 Argent Street, Broken Hill. How far? Pretty far. About 13 hours west of Sydney, or nine hours north of Melbourne.
PERC TUCKER REGIONAL GALLERY — TOWNSVILLE, QUEENSLAND
At Townsville's Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, you can immerse yourself in the world of tropical art. The former Union Bank building, now a museum, was renovated in 1981 and became home to the Union Bank Art Gallery, which houses more than 2,000 works of art. Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artworks, as well as contemporary Papua New Guinean and pop art, are also included in the scope of the exhibition. An acquisitive $40,000 Percival Portrait Painting Prize adds a new face to the collection each year.
Where? Corner of Flinders and Denham streets. How far? Real far. It's about a 15 hour drive north of Brisbane (or a two-hour flight).
SHEPPARTON ART MUSEUM — SHEPPARTON, VICTORIA
As a creative person, Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) should be on your list of places to visit. Every year, two acquisitive awards are given out: the Indigenous Ceramic Award and the Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award. It has the largest collection of ceramics in Australia. In addition, there are numerous works of art by Australian artists, as well as an active schedule of temporary exhibitions. A new $34 million home designed by Denton Corker Marshall architects will be ready for SAM in 2020.
Where? 70 Welsford Street, Shepparton. How far? About two hours north of Melbourne.