Nine of the best art galleries in regional Victoria
Take an art-led day trip or weekend away exploring Victoria’s regional galleries.
Travel-starved Victorians hardly need an excuse to explore their state, but as the weather cools an art-led adventure could be just the thing to transport us to some less-travelled corners.
Our regional galleries punch above their weight and after a year marred by the pandemic, this year’s autumn-winter season is making up for lost time with some beautiful and thought-provoking exhibitions.
Victoria has more public art galleries than any other state, supporting local artists, bringing high-quality contemporary art to town, and enriching their local communities with impressive permanent collections that better some metropolitan public institutions.
Regional galleries like Geelong Gallery bring high-quality contemporary art to town, support local artists and enrich communities through their permanent collections.
“Galleries are set in their communities and they reflect them,” explains RACV’s head of visual arts Mardi Nowak. “They produce shows that are very much about what’s important to their community, so from a visitor perspective it gives a real insight into what’s going on in the area.”
She adds that many regional galleries have been around much longer than some of their Melbourne counterparts, creating hubs for the arts via philanthropy and bequests. They are also cornerstones of the community, with staff and volunteers sharing gems of insider intel to visitors keen to make the most of their visit. “They know where to get the best coffee, the best wine, a new restaurant to try.”
All of this adds up to rich pickings for day-trippers, weekend escapees or those following an art-led gallery trail. So why not side-trip from the Grampians to drop in on Ararat’s textiles collection, hop a train to Bendigo for Mary Quant’s ’60s stylings, add a surrealist edge to a winter Mornington Peninsula sojourn, or mix Yarra Valley grape grazing with contemporary art at TarraWarra’s Biennial or WILAM BIIK.
Mardi has a history of touring exhibitions to regional galleries so we asked her to reveal some of her favourites. But any regional public gallery will have plenty to offer the curious visitor – at the very least a uniquely local perspective on art, and a delicious bakery recommendation, too, if you’re lucky.
At Benalla Art Gallery’s Re-gathering: David Boyd, Dreamland, 1971, oil on composition board, 45.2 x 60.6 cm. Gift of Wooleen Pty. Ltd., 1980, 1980.13, © Estate of David Boyd / Copyright Agency, 2020, Benalla Art Gallery Collection.
At Horsham Art Gallery: 2012-1, Tim Handfield Building Site, Goulburn from the series In camera 2006, chromogenic print, 100 x 80cm. Purchased through the Horsham Art Gallery Trust Fund 2021, Horsham regional Art Gallery Collection. Image courtesy of the artist.
Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary (until 11 July) is the Bendigo Art Gallery’s latest blockbuster fashion exhibition.