Marc Besen AC (1923-2023)

TarraWarra Museum of Art, Wurundjeri Country

Marcus (Marc) Besen AC, Chair of the TarraWarra Museum of Art Board, a museum that he founded with his late wife Eva Besen AO (1928 – 2021) passed away on 8th November 2023 at the age of 99.

Director of the Museum, Dr Victoria Lynn, says:

Our Board Chairman and founding patron Marc Besen AC embraced creative imagination and innovation, and he regarded artists with the highest esteem. A friend to many Australian artists, he was passionate about sharing their vision with the greater public, and even more enthusiastic about creating opportunities for young people to learn about art.

Together with his late wife Eva Besen AO (1928-2021) Marc founded and built Australia’s first major privately funded public art gallery, the TarraWarra Museum of Art, which opened its award-winning building designed by the late Allan Powell, located on Wurundjeri Country in the Yarra Valley in 2003. The Museum houses the Besens’ gift of their acclaimed collection of 564 modernist and contemporary Australian art works and combines their three enduring passions, nature, art and architecture. 

Under construction currently is the Eva and Marc Besen Centre at TarraWarra which will open in 2024, designed by Kerstin Thompson Architects, and dedicated to learning, engagement and the visible storage of 300 works that were gifted by Eva and Marc to the Museum.

The Museum’s staff and Board will miss Marc’s regular visits to the Museum, his kindness, formidable energy and sharp mind. We send our deepest condolences to Marc’s children, Deputy Chair Daniel Besen who has championed his father’s vision at TarraWarra, Naomi Milgrom AC, Carol Schwartz AO, Debbie Dadon AM. We also send condolences to the extended Besen family. A book honouring Eva and Marc Besen’s collection gifted to TarraWarra will be published in 2024.  

Marc and Eva collected some of Australia’s most important artists, including Rick Amor, Sydney Ball, Charles Blackman, Peter Booth, Arthur Boyd, John Brack, William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Ian Fairweather, Rosalise Gascoigne, Brent Harris, Joy Hester, Dale Hickey, Robert Jacks, Roger Kemp, Godfrey Miller, Sidney Nolan, John Olsen, John Perceval, Patricia Piccinini, Jeffrey Smart, Sally Smart, Edwin Tanner, Imants Tillers, Albert Tucker, Tony Tuckson, John Young, Brett Whiteley and Fred Williams, and many more.

The significance of their collection was recognised by Patrick McCaughey, then Professor of Visual Art at Monash University, who borrowed works for the exhibition, The Eva and Marc Besen Collection Australian Painting and Sculpture 1937-75, held at the Monash University Gallery. Seeing their works in this context prompted them to envision a museum to house their collection, as a gift to the public of Australia.

The Museum is funded by the TarraWarra Museum of Art Foundation, along with philanthropic and corporate support. Over the last 20 years it has become one of Australia’s most significant and ground-breaking galleries.

In lieu of flowers, a condolence book will be available to sign in the foyer of the Museum in December. The family requests privacy at this time.

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