Lindsay Fox has come a long way since the days of his one-truck business. Last week his success earned the NGV a transformative gift.

Artist’s impression of the exterior of The Fox: NGV Contemporary.

It’s a gift that many of the major gift fundraisers among us can only dream of – a cool $100 million, donated to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) last week by trucking tycoon, Lindsay Fox and his wife, Paula.  

The gift is monumental both in size and as the largest-ever single cash donation to an Australian gallery. Happily, it was announced on Lindsay’s 85th birthday. The donation comes in support of the art institution’s plans for ‘NGV Contemporary’, Australia’s soon-to-be largest gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design, with an open date scheduled for 2028.  

The project will dedicate more than 13,000 square metres of display space as well as an expansive rooftop terrace and sculpture garden with vistas of Melbourne. Located in the city’s arts precinct, it will be close to the existing NGV International and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.  

Lindsay and Paula’s generosity has earned them naming rights, with the space now called The Fox: NGV Contemporary. NGV director Tony Ellwood, shared that the name was “bestowed by the government and the gallery” to recognise the Fox’s gift, emphasising it was a no-strings-attached donation. “The Fox family have, actually, really asked for very little,” he said. 

Artist’s impression of the of central hall of The Fox: NGV Contemporary. Source: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/the-fox-ngv-contemporary/

… it’s who you know  

Lindsay is quick to give credit to his wife for the history-making gift. Paula has been on the NGV board for 10 years and the couple share that she drove the donation. If that’s not a board director leading by example, we’re not sure what is.  

It is also not the first donation the couple and their family have made to the NGV, having previously supported the gallery to acquire major works of art and design, including pieces by contemporary artists Nick Cave and Jeff Koons. 

Like so many of his entrepreneurial peers, Lindsay’s success – and his capacity for mega-gifts – started from humble beginnings. In 1956, with the help of one truck, he began delivering soft drinks in the summer months and fuel in winter. This venture would grow into Linfox, Asia Pacific’s largest privately-owned logistics company, securing the business mogul an estimated $4.36 billion personal fortune. 

The NGV’s impressive major gifts history  

Whilst the Fox’s donation is record-breaking, pharmacist Alfred Felton gave a gift back in 1904 worth £378,033, equivalent to about $58m today. The bequest has enabled the acquisition of over 15,000 artworks, collectively worth more than $2 billion at today’s value. In 2020, the Ian Potter Foundation donated $20 million towards the NGV Contemporary project. And in 2018, billionaires John and Pauline Gandel donated $2 million for the Pauline Gandel Gallery of Japanese Art. 

More recently, the Gandels have been in discussions with the government about funding for the new project, while the Myer family is understood to also be considering a bequest. 

Mega-gifts much-needed 

Australia’s largest museum for contemporary art comes with an equally large price tag. The Andrews government has invested $1.7 billion in transforming the arts precinct in which The Fox will reside. And with the NGV team tasked with raising at least $200 million towards the new gallery, they will be hoping for some more Fox-like generosity. 

To find out more about The Fox: NGV Contemporary, click here.  

To learn more about the NGV’s fundraising streams and current donors, click here and here.  

Read more about the Felton bequest.

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