Now valued at more than $45m and dividing income equally between the National Gallery of Victoria and charitable causes that support women and children, the Alfred Felton Bequest is one of Victoria’s largest and oldest philanthropic trusts.
When it was established in 1904 with £380,000, it provided the NGV with access to funds greater than those of London's National and Tate Galleries combined. When Alfred Felton died, the Felton Bequest became Australia’s first great philanthropic gift and it remains the most valuable bequest ever made to the arts in Australia.
Born in England, and arriving in the Colony of Victoria in 1853, Alfred Felton made a fortune as a merchant and manufacturer over a wide field in the developing colony from pharmaceuticals to chemicals and glass. He was a lifelong bachelor and an avid art collector. He lived from the early 1890’s until his death at the iconic Esplanade Hotel (The Espy) in St Kilda - a venue which also hosted Mark Twain and Sarah Bernhardt when they visited Australia.
Founded in 1861, the NGV is Australia’s oldest and largest art museum. Alongside the NGV being located in Melbourne, where Felton lived – the NGV predated the establishment of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra by more than a century. Given he was an avid art collector and his location of residence, the NGV was a logical choice for his ongoing support.
Equity Trustees is proud to be entrusted with this landmark philanthropic trust and does so in partnership with a committee: Alfred Felton specified in his Will that grants from his Bequest be the responsibility of a Committee of five. These are currently: Sir Andrew Grimwade (Chairman), Rupert Myer AO, Professor Emeritus Sally Walker AM, Janet Whiting AM (President of the Trustees of NGV) and Equity Trustees’ Board member, Alice Williams.
The latest commission by the Felton Bequest is the astounding work Mass 2017, by Melbourne-born (now UK based) Ron Mueck, internationally recognised as one of the leading exponents of hyperrealism, renowned for his contemporary, mesmerizing and often unsettling sculptures.
Mass 2017 is a feature piece in the NGV Triennial exhibition, which is free and exclusive to Melbourne, featuring major works by more than 100 international artists and designers from 32 countries.