As part of the city's expansion on Blythswood Hill spearheaded by William Harley, the Galleries were built in 1855-6 to a design by architect James Smith of Blythswood Square at a cost of £40,000 .They are named after their founder, Archibald McLellan (1795–1854), a coach builder, councillor and patron of the arts. Following his death, Glasgow Corporation acquired the galleries and collection, and for a time they were known as the Corporation Halls before reverting to their former owner's name. The Galleries housed Glasgow School of Art from 1869 to 1899.
In October 1986, the shop frontage building housing the Galleries was ravaged by fire, but they re-opened in 1990 as the largest quality, climate-controlled, temporary exhibition gallery in Scotland. They continue to be the largest exhibition space in the city-centre.
While Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was closed for refurbishment between 2003 and 2006, the McLellan Galleries hosted a display of its best-loved works.
Since 2012 there has been public discussion involving user organisations such as the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts with a view to re-establishing the McLellan Galleries as a major feature in Glasgow’s cultural life.
- Glasgow's Blythswood, by Graeme Smith, published 2022 www.blythswoodsmith.co.uk
- "DSA Building/Design Report: McLellan Art Gallery and warehouse". Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- McDermid, Alan (1 July 2004). "Women's monument to a forgotten hero; McLellan Galleries founder honoured after 140 years". Glasgow Herald. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Smith, George Fairfull (2012). "FURNITURE AND PLENISHING FOR 1 PARK TERRACE, GLASGOW". Furniture History Society. JSTOR 23408140.
- "Our History". Glasgow School of Art. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Paterson, Wilma (2 March 1990). "Galleries with their own artistic merit". Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Currie, Karin Spalter (10 May 2013). "Reopening the McLellan Galleries Will Restore Access to Our Cultural Heritage". Glasgow Herald. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Miller, Phil (26 March 2014). "Council Plans Fresh Lease of Life for McLellan Galleries". Glasgow Herald. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Historic Environment Scotland. "254-290 (Even Nos) Sauchiehall Street, 5, 7 Rose Street, 2, 6 Dalhousie Street and 145, 147, 149 Renfrew Street, McLellan Galleries (Category B Listed Building) (LB33192)". Retrieved 28 March 2019.