Art, history and beauty lovers, the National Gallery of Victoria should be on your to do list next time Melbourne is your destination. This world-class gallery is one of the oldest and most impressive in Australia. It is home to an impossibly large and varied collection of famous works by master artists from all over the world. Get your art fix at the amazing National Gallery of Victoria with a wander around their collection, a guided tour and a look at their second, Australian artist specific, location.
- National Gallery of Victoria Australia – As well as having an enormous collection of international art at the gallery located in the Melbourne Arts Precinct, the National Gallery of Victoria maintains another location in Federation Square. This second gallery, known as the National Gallery of Victoria Australia or the Ian Potter Centre, is home to a diverse range of art from Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists spanning the period from colonisation to present day.
- Guided Tours – The National Gallery of Victoria runs a number of guided tours at both its destinations. The tours run by passionate volunteer guides are free, and cover both the current exhibitions running at the gallery as well as information on the gallery’s permanent collection.
- Permanent Collection – The National Gallery of Victoria has one of the largest and most diverse range of artwork in Australia, and the gallery’s permanent collection is the best place to see this. From European ceramics to Egyptian artefacts and everything in between, including an impressive collection of masters like Bernini, Money, Picasso, Rembrandt and Renoir, it’s something that must be seen to be believed.
- Touring Collection – As well as being the forever home of some of the world’s most amazing art works, the National Gallery of Victoria also displays a number of travelling exhibitions, which come from all over the world and change regularly. The details of this can be found on the National Gallery of Victoria’s online calendar, and are organised quite in advance to allow for early planning.
- Kids Program – As a part of their ongoing program to introduce kids to the world of art, and keep them interested in art and artists, the National Gallery of Victoria is running a constantly changing line-up of interesting children’s activities and programs. These are available on their kids calendar, and focus on hand-on, interactive and engaging learning.
The National Gallery of Victoria is always free to enter. However, the travelling exhibitions do sometimes necessitate a fee, which is only compulsory to those wanting to see those exhibitions.
- Kids Activities and Trails – As well as running a wide range of onsite children’s activities, the National Gallery of Victoria also has a number of dedicated self-guided activities that take children and parents around the gallery. These are available as printouts, and are relevant to both the permanent collection and the travelling temporary collections.
- Eating and Drinking – There are lots of facilities available onsite at the National Gallery of Victoria for beverages and other refreshments. These include the the Gallery Kitchen for coffee and lunch, Persimmon Cafe for fine dining and the famous Tea Room for a traditional high tea.
- Nearby Attractions – Even undertaking both of the National Galleries will likely leave visitors with time to spare in the day, so it’s lucky that they’re both so centrally located. Within a short walk of St Paul’s Cathedral, Tennis World and the Royal Botanic Gardens, or alternatively a quick jump onto a train at Flinders Street will travel almost anywhere in Melbourne.
- Tram – Swanston Street/St Kilda Road Trams (routes 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 64, 67, 72) travel past the National Gallery of Victoria International. Alight at the Arts Precinct stop.
- Trains – Take any train to Flinders Street Station, and walk across the bridge past the Victorian Arts Centre.
- Car – Parking is available beneath National Gallery of Victoria International, enter from Sturt Street, Southbank.
- Taxi – There is a taxi rank outside Federation Square to take visitors over the bridge directly to the gallery.
The National Gallery of Victoria was founded in 1861, just 10 years after Victoria had been declared an independent colony. The reason for this was the Victorian gold rush, which had left the area one of the richest in Australia. The initial collection was made up of donations of works of art, and monetary donations from rich residents, including wills and bequests.
One of these was from a man named Alfred Felton, a self-made millionaire, who left his entire fortune to charities and the National Gallery of Victoria, allowing them to purchase thousands of works of art. Due to the number of acquisitions, the gallery became too big for its initial location in the State Library building, and in 1968 it was moved into its own custom-designed building. This building included a number of famous artistic features including an enormous stained glass ceiling by Leonard French and a water-wall entrance, which remains a popular photographic point.
But just 30 years later the National Gallery had grown too large again, and it was decided that the gallery be split into two, with a new gallery specifically for Australian art to be built in Federation Square. This became the Ian Potter Centre, which opened in 2003.
- The bequest from Alfred Fenton has allowed the National Gallery of Victoria to purchase more than 15,000 works of art.
- The stained-glass ceiling that features in the architectural design of the National Gallery Victoria International building is actually one of the world’s largest stained-glass ceilings.
- In 1986 Picasso’s The Weeping Woman was stolen from the museum and held as ransom for better arts funding for young artists. It was returned without issue two weeks later, in a railway locker.
- In 2011, to celebrate its 150th birthday, the National Gallery of Victoria spent $5.2 million on a Correggio work called Madonna and Child with infant Saint John the Baptist. It represented the single most expensive acquisition in the gallery’s history.