Visiting the NGV in Melbourne

The NGV in Melbourne, Australia, is Australia’s oldest and most visited public art gallery. The National Gallery of Victoria opened in 1861 and today is one of the world’s most popular galleries, with over a million visitors yearly.

Located in the centre of Melbourne, it houses one of the most impressive and diverse collections of artworks spanning various periods, styles, and cultures.

The main exhibition space and collection are housed at the arts centre on St Kilda Road, with its iconic spire and waterfall facade. At the same time, the IAN Potter Centre at Federation Square showcases only Australian art.

The NGV Melbourne Museum features blockbuster exhibitions annually, such as Pierre Bonnard, in the winter of 2023. These temporary exhibitions at the oldest and most visited Australian museum draw new visitors annually.

Music events such as the Counting Crows and performing arts shows play at Hamer Hall.

Why visit the NGV in Melbourne 

The NGV is an absolute must-visit destination for art enthusiasts, culture seekers, and anyone who appreciates creativity and beauty.

The front of the NGV in melbourne Australia
The entry to the NGV in Melbourne on St Kilda Road

With its diverse and extensive collection of artworks from international artists, the NGV offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in art and creativity.

For art lovers, the NGV presents a chance to witness masterpieces by renowned artists from various periods, including European classics, Asian treasures, and contemporary gems. From the grandeur of old masters to the vibrancy of modern art, the NGV provides a rich tapestry of artistic expression.

History of the National Gallery of Victoria 

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne has a rich and storied history that dates back to its establishment in 1861. It is Australia’s oldest public art gallery founded by early colonial settlers’ efforts.

Originally housed in temporary locations, including the State Library of Victoria, the gallery’s main building and current home, formerly known as the NGV International on St Kilda Road, was designed by architect Sir Roy Grounds and officially opened in 1968.

This iconic structure showcases a diverse international art collection spanning various periods and styles.

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An Overview of the Collection 

The NGV International collection is a diverse and extensive assemblage of artworks from around the world, spanning various periods, styles, and cultures, showcasing the richness and diversity of artistic expression.

view of the NGV International Gallery in Melbourne showcases modern architecture against a clear blue sky, inviting visitors to explore its cultural treasures within
The NGV International Gallery, where art and architecture converge

The European art collection is a significant highlight, featuring works from the Renaissance to the 19th century. Visitors can marvel at masterpieces by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Turner, and Monet.

The collection includes iconic paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and exquisite examples of European craftsmanship.

The Asian art section encompasses artworks from China, Japan, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia, showcasing traditional art forms like ceramics, textiles, and sculptures. 

The NGV International collection also includes a notable collection of Islamic art, featuring intricately designed carpets, calligraphy, and ceramics. 

Modern and contemporary art are well represented with works by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. A new building, The Fox NGV Contemporary, is being built to house the collection and will be a great addition to the National Gallery of Victoria’s works of art. It will be an iconic Melbourne building.

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Famous Paintings in the National Gallery of Victoria 

The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

The Banquet of Cleopatra, a masterpiece by Giambattista Tiepolo, opulent scene with Cleopatra, dressed in rich attire, engaging in a sumptuous feast
By Giovanni Battista Tiepolo –

The Banquet of Cleopatra is a famous historical painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The story revolves around the legendary Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, and her audacious attempt to impress the Roman general, Mark Antony.

As the tale goes, Cleopatra, known for her beauty and wit, had fallen deeply in love with Mark Antony, a powerful Roman military leader.

She arranged a sumptuous banquet of extraordinary extravagance to display her opulence and win Antony’s favour. Cleopatra devised an ingenious plan at the banquet to showcase her wealth and sophistication.

She had a precious pearl, one of the most valuable in history, dissolved in a glass of vinegar. Cleopatra dramatically drank the dissolved pearl, displaying her affluence and leaving Antony in awe of her audacity.

Tiepolo’s painting captures this pivotal moment, with Cleopatra radiating charm and allure as she impresses Mark Antony and other guests. The opulent setting and the presence of various attendants and musicians add to the sense of grandeur and festivity.

Two Old Men Disputing by Rembrandt 

The Dutch master painter Rembrandt painted Two Old Men Disputing when he was only 21. It depicts two elderly men (possibly prophets) engaging in an intense and animated conversation, their faces etched with wrinkles and their hands gesturing emphatically. Rembrandt’s use of light and shadow brings depth and realism to the scene.

Rembrandt Two old men disputing 1628

Dutch master painter Rembrandt painted Two Old Men Disputing when he was only 21. It depicts two elderly men (possibly prophets) engaging in an intense and animated conversation, their faces etched with wrinkles and their hands gesturing emphatically. Rembrandt’s use of light and shadow brings depth and realism to the scene. 

A Lion Attacking a Horse by George Stubbs 

Sunset over Melbourne's iconic skyline
By George Stubbs – Public Domain,

This painting is a dramatic and visceral painting by George Stubbs, completed in 1770. The artwork exemplifies Stubbs’ expertise in depicting animals with remarkable realism and intensity. In the painting, a ferocious lion lunges at a startled and vulnerable horse, capturing a moment of raw and primal struggle.

Ulysses and the Sirens by John William Waterhouse 

the legendary Ulysses tied to his ship's mast, resisting the enchanting songs of the sirens
By John William Waterhouse

The artwork depicts the mythical Greek Hero, Ulysses, resisting the enchanting song of the Sirens. Ulysses, portrayed with determination, is tied to his ship’s mast to resist the allure of the Sirens’ haunting melodies that lure sailors to their doom. 

The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin 

The Crossing of the Red Sea, a dramatic painting capturing a biblical event
By Nicolas Poussin –

This monumental painting by French Baroque artist Nicolas Poussin depicts the biblical event from the Book of Exodus, where Moses leads the Israelites through the parted waters of the Red Sea, escaping from Pharaoh’s pursuing army.

Poussin’s masterful composition, with its classical influences, creates a sense of grandeur and divine intervention. The use of vibrant colours and the skilled rendering of light add drama and intensity to the scene.

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne is a must-visit attraction in Melbourne. It competes on a global stage with other museums and galleries. It has an impressive collection of paintings and other artworks from around the world, which is incredible given the young age of this country and its distance from Europe.

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Visiting the NGV

Getting to the NGV is easy with various transportation options. NGV International on St Kilda Road showcases global art and houses diverse collections from Europe, Asia, America, and Oceania.

NGV Australia at Fed Square highlights Australian art, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, spanning historical to contemporary works.

The National Gallery of Victoria's exterior showcases a blend of modern design and classical architecture against a clear sky
Two teenagers enjoying the paintings during their visit to NGV in Melbourne

Tram stops are conveniently located, while those with limited mobility can access NGV Australia via alternative entrances. Street parking and paid accessible parking are available, along with drop-off points for taxis and rideshares.

Experience the delightful NGV High Tea in Melbourne. With an array of teas, finger sandwiches, scones, and sweet treats, it offers a stylishly relaxed atmosphere for indulging.

The sparkling high tea option at the NGV in Melbourne is a highlight, a perfect blend of savoury and sweet in an artistic setting. High tea and art make a great date idea in Melbourne for couples.

The NGV welcomes all visitors and provides resources for school and student group visits, enhancing the learning experience. Finally, we can’t forget that the land on which the NGV is built belongs to the traditional owners, the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people. The NGV is a free Melbourne attraction.

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Best places to stay in Melbourne

Staying in the heart of the city allows for convenient access to major attractions, shopping venues, diverse dining experiences, and a variety of entertainment options.

Several notable hotels are available, such as InterContinental Melbourne, The Westin Melbourne, and The Langham Melbourne.

If you prefer a more unique experience, consider boutique stays like QT Melbourne, Adelphi Hotel, and The Grand Hotel Melbourne.

Experience picturesque views along the Yarra River while staying near the arts and cultural precinct. Additionally, you’ll find yourself near the renowned Crown Casino and a vibrant array of dining establishments.

Consider staying at accommodations like Crown Towers Melbourne or Pan Pacific Melbourne for a comfortable and convenient stay not too far from the NGV in Melbourne.

We hope this article from us here at Explore Victoria has inspired you to embark on your adventure in Victoria, Australia, from popular caravan parks and pristine beaches to drives along the Great Ocean Road. Enjoy weekends away on the Mornington Peninsula and discover the cosmopolitan charm of Melbourne, Victoria, with a range of experiences for every traveller who wants to visit Victoria.

Whether you’re drawn to the rugged beauty of the Grampians, the cultural richness of Ballarat, or the autumn colours of Bright and Northern Victoria, there’s no shortage of hidden gems waiting to be discovered in Victoria.

Even if you love exploring Gippsland or driving the Great Alpine Road, Victoria has something special for you, and there is so much more for you to discover. If you are looking for more incredible and best places to visit in Melbourne or more travel in Victoria destinations, Explore Victoria has some more articles below for you to check out. Expand your horizons and get out and about in Victoria, Australia, for an unforgettable experience. 

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Author Bio

Mark Wyld is a passionate writer and explorer, weaving tales inspired by a deep love for his home state of Victoria. With local knowledge, Mark seeks to share insights and experiences that captivate and inspire readers. When not immersed in writing, you can find him working in Disability Support or spending time with family and friends. Follow Mark for a journey through Victoria’s best sights, tastes and attractions.