The National Gallery of Victoria has received a $74 million (AUD $100 million) donation from the family of an Australian billionaire and philanthropist to fund the construction of a new building dedicated to contemporary art amid a shortfall in government funding.
The new space, The Fox: NGV Contemporary, set to be located in Melbourne’s arts precinct will be named for the donors, supply chain magnate Lindsay Fox and his wife, Paula, who serves on the board of the NGV foundation.
The government overseeing the Australian state of Victoria and its cultural sector has invested $1.3 billion (AUD $1.7 billion) into expanding the hub that houses the NGV complex. The funding was first secured in November 2020 as part of a state-backed initiative to revamp the Melbourne Southbank arts hub.
But the museum needed more funding than was originally approved in the initial government plan, leaving the institution’s leadership to cultivate a private donor to back the the new contemporary art project, according to a report published by The Guardian.
The gift is the largest promised to an art museum in the country by a living donor. The Fox family has funded the NGV for two decades.
For the current project, the museum secured another $20 million donation from the Ian Potter Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 1964 by a prominent Australian financier.
The building will be the third site belonging to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), which will include a 43,000 foot exhibition space with a 130-foot-high circular hall located in the Southbank behind the NGV International. Australian architecture firm Angelo Candalepas and Associates has been selected to design the new space.
Major gifts from private donors have long sustained the 161-year-old Melbourne museum. Pharmacist Alfred Felton allocated half of his wealth posthumously in 1904 to fund the museum.
The gift is due to significantly widen the museum’s reach. The new space is estimated to draw another 1 million visitors to the arts precinct. In a statement to ARTnews, the museum’s director, Tony Ellwood said the project will be “a global beacon for tourism and a leading cultural destination for the region.”
Daniel Andrews, the head of the Victorian government, described the plan to transform the Melbourne museum hub as “the biggest cultural infrastructure project ever undertaken in Australia,” in a statement announcing the plan in 2020.
In addition to exhibiting contemporary art, the new space will showcase work that spans categories in design, fashion and architecture.
“Never could we have imagined this level of generosity,” Ellwood remarked. “It is unprecedented in both the 161 years history of our institution, as well as the Australian cultural sector.”