Bohemian Melbourne

Vali Myers_L Ham editorialA new exhibition at The State Library of Victoria will explore the counter-cultural and creative identity of Melbourne.

Bohemian Melbourne will weave the story of Melbourne’s bohemian scenes, subcultures and identities from the mid-19th century until today. The exhibition celebrates artists, writers, poets, performers, musicians and filmmakers who made their mark on Melbourne over the last 150 years including the likes of Marcus Clarke, Percy Grainger, Barry Humphries, Mika Mora and Nick Cave.

Bohemian Melbourne features a cast of colourful characters including well-known Melbourne iconoclasts – like Albert Tucker and Joy Hester, Tim and Betty Burstall, Frank Thring and The Skyhooks – and lesser known avant garde figures like Vali Myers and Val Eastwood. The exhibition also explores modern day bohemians such as goths, punks, burlesque and street artists.

Along with individuals, the exhibition delves into places that have etched themselves into Melbourne’s history such as Heide, Montsalvat, the Savage Club, La Mama, the Pram Factory, the Crystal Ballroom and the Nicholas Building.

Drawing on the State Library’s own vast collection, as well as public and private collections, the exhibition features generous loans from the National Gallery of Victoria, Arts Centre Melbourne, National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Queensland Art Gallery, State Library of Queensland, the Grainger Museum collection, the University of Melbourne, the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and many more.

Bohemian Melbourne brings together paintings, photographs, prints, books, diaries, letters, costumes, posters and album covers along with a diverse selection of rarely seen film and video from the National Film and Sound Archive, the ABC and numerous independent filmmakers.

Senior curator Clare Williamson said the exhibition illustrates how bohemians can be found in every generation from the 1860s through to today. “Every generation feels nostalgic about its own unique bohemian legacy, but this exhibition shows how the spirit of bohemianism has endured through 150 years of Melbourne’s history,” she said.

The exhibition has been curated by the State Library of Victoria with advisor Tony Moore, Monash University historian and author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians.

Bohemian Melbourne
Keith Murdoch Gallery – State Library of Victoria, Swanston Street, Melbourne
Exhibition: 12 December 2014 – 22 February 2015
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Liz Ham, Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building, Melbourne, 1997.