A life well-lived

Marc Besen AC, business man, philanthropist, holocaust survivor and lifelong supporter of the arts, has died aged 99.  

Marc was born in Romania and came to Australia in 1947, one of a generation of refugees from Central Europe forced from their homes during the Second World War. Starting with a modest business importing hosiery in 1950s Melbourne Marc, along with his wife, the late Eva Besen AO  and her brother John Gandel, grew the company into Sussan, one of Australia's most successful retail enterprises. 

In 1978 Marc and Eva founded the Besen Family Foundation to build on their philanthropic work across four areas:  Arts & Culture, Jewish Community, Early Childhood Education and Environment. The Foundation has been at the heart of many ground-breaking ventures, including Spoleto Melbourne (the forerunner of the Melbourne Festival), the Peter Mac Cancer Centre, the Jewish Holocaust Centre and the TarraWarra Museum of Art, their gift to the nation.  

Marc and Eva were regular attendees of Musica Viva Australia concerts from their earliest years in Melbourne, and Marc was made a life member of the Musica Viva Australia Members Council in 2016. He was a founding supporter of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition and was unfailingly generous with his time, wisdom and financial support for the development of young artists. 

Anne Frankenberg, CEO, Musica Viva Australia: 

“Marc Besen, along with his late wife Eva, was a stalwart and longstanding supporter of Musica Viva Australia. Throughout their lives they lived their values, of generosity to and faith in family, culture and humanity. Marc’s story of immigration, opportunity, and an abiding love for the musical culture he left behind in Europe mirrored those of many of our founders, and he remained an enthusiastic audience member right up to recent months. All at Musica Viva Australia send condolences to Marc’s family as we pay tribute to a generous and constant patron of the arts.” 

Read more about the legacy of Marc and Eva Besen, including the Besen Family Foundation and TarraWarra Museaum of Art.