Instance segmentation seeks to identify and segment each object from images, which often relies on a large number of dense annotations for model training. To alleviate this burden, unsupervised instance segmentation methods have been developed to train class-agnostic instance segmentation models without any annotation. In this paper, we propose a novel unsupervised instance segmentation approach, Exemplar-FreeSOLO, to enhance unsupervised instance segmentation by exploiting a limited number of unannotated and unsegmented exemplars. The proposed framework offers a new perspective on directly perceiving top-down information without annotations. Specifically, Exemplar-FreeSOLO introduces a novel exemplarknowledge abstraction module to acquire beneficial top-down guidance knowledge for instances using unsupervised exemplar object extraction. Moreover, a new exemplar embedding contrastive module is designed to enhance the discriminative capability of the segmentation model by exploiting the contrastive exemplar-based guidance knowledge in the embedding space. To evaluate the proposed ExemplarFreeSOLO, we conduct comprehensive experiments and perform in-depth analyses on three image instance segmentation datasets. The experimental results demonstrate that the proposed approach is effective and outperforms the state-of-the-art methods.