E. Phillips Fox, “The Arbour” (1910) (via NGV.vic.gov.au)

According to The Australian, the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia has rejected a $400,000 bequest because it came with strings attached:

She wanted the gallery to establish an award for a painting by an Australian artist “in sympathy with the work of E. Phillips Fox,” to be known as the Len Fox prize.

E. Phillips Fox is a renowned Australian painter, and the uncle of Len Fox, who along with his wife Mona, made the donation. The article mentions that Len and Mona Fox were committed communists.

The gallery initially accepted the gift, saying it would take the money if it could spend it on paintings that would be “in sympathy with the works of E. Phillips Fox”.

The National Gallery of Victory (via Wikipedia)

While it’s refreshing to see a public art museum take a stand based on principle, it’s unfortunate that the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, The Australian, reported the diss with the title, “Victorian gallery rejects $400K from communists.” Artinfo.com also made a point of reporting the fact that the Fox’s were communists, even though the story didn’t really have to do with communism and there is no evidence — at least in the article — to suggest that E. Phillips Fox was a communist or paintings in sympathy with Fox’s work had to adhere to any ideology.

As you can see from the painting by Fox above, they seem far from any kind of doctrinaire ideology. I wonder what The Australian would have reported if the museum had accepted the donation.

For more works by Fox in the National Gallery of Victoria, click here.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

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