The Macfarlane Commissions

The Macfarlane Commissions is a major exhibition series at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), supported by The Macfarlane Fund to enable new commissions of significant scale by emerging and mid-career Australian and international artists across three biennial exhibitions from 2018–2022.

The exhibitions in the series, The Theatre is Lying (15 December 2018 – 24 March 2019), Overlapping Magisteria (5 December 2020 – 14 March 2021), Like a Wheel That Turns (2 July–4 September 2022) and Future Remains: The 2024 Macfarlane Commissions (29 June – 1 September 2024) have supported twenty-three Australian and two international artists. For many of the artists involved, the commission was the largest and most ambitious of their career, and has led to further opportunities and legacies. The series strongly aligns with ACCA’s mission to propel artists’ careers, creating a legacy of major commissions which continue to circulate and influence the understanding, appreciation and recent history of contemporary art.

ACCA’s Partnership with The Macfarlane Fund

The Macfarlane Fund was established to honour the life of respected Melbourne businessman Don Macfarlane who, throughout his life, took immense pleasure in the arts. Established on his passing by Don Macfarlane’s wife Helen and daughter Melissa Macfarlane, the fund’s primary focus is to offer financial support across the span of an artist’s full career, from emerging to mid-career and senior levels.

The Macfarlane Fund partnership with ACCA is the single largest gift the organisation has received. ACCA is immensely grateful for our relationship with The Macfarlane Fund, and for the vision of Helen and Melissa Macfarlane to establish the The Macfarlane Commissions series, which has made a transformative impact at ACCA. In addition to enabling a new keynote biennial exhibition series to critical acclaim, support from The Macfarlane Fund has helping to build organisational capacity and sustainability, enhance ACCA’s profile, and our capacity to engage audiences and new donors and supporters. Helen and Melissa Macfarlane’s engagement with ACCA has been strategic and philanthropically-minded, as advocates for ACCA’s work with artists but also for supporting ACCA directly. Through the Macfarlane gift, Helen and Melissa have contributed to the establishment of ACCA’s Major Gifts Strategy and they have become one of the strongest voices of advocacy in ACCA’s Case for Support.

‘With ACCA, we chose an organisation that, at its core, puts the artist first. Our relationship with ACCA is profoundly important to us personally; we see it as a collaboration and a friendship. We are learning to achieve new standards as a donor. We hope that established modes of giving are challenged and transformed by the way we give’
– Helen and Melissa Macfarlane

Impact for Artists

I have really treasured my experience working with ACCA and the Macfarlane Fund and can’t begin to say what a privilege it has been to work with such amazing people, to feel so heard and supported to develop work in a context and with people that I believe in … To work with a place and people who lead and support artists with encouragement and confidence has been such a beneficial thing for me.– Isadora Vaughan

This commission made me excited about artwork again, I was feeling quite drained by always worrying about the nuts and bolts; whether or not I would receive the support everyone needs. I was free to explore just the conceptual side of the work and have fun, plain old fun.’ – Sam Petersen

Being awarded the Macfarlane Commission allowed me to approach an idea without having to compromise it at all.’ – Daniel Jenatsch

[The Macfarlane Commissions] opened up new ideas and new territory you wouldn’t necessarily be engaging with.
–  Anna Breckon and Nat Randall

You really get to sit with something and test some things out and then work through ideas.
– Consuelo Cavaniglia

Exhibitions in the series

Digital Content

Watch The Theatre is Lying exhibition video
Watch Overlapping Magisteria exhibition video:
Watch Like a Wheel That Turns exhibition video


Media Reports

Presenting Partner