City grateful for $10 million bequest to Gallery

31 May 2020

City of Newcastle has welcomed an extraordinary $10 million bequest to the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation from the late gallery supporter Valerie Ryan.

Mrs Ryan, who was a tremendous patron of the Gallery along with her late husband, John, passed away in November last year just shy of her 95th birthday, leaving part of her estate to the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation and the Hunter Medical Research Institute.

The share portfolio bequest announced Monday will be held in trust by the Foundation and dedicated to Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection or building-expansion project, which would more than double the facility’s exhibition space to enable more works of art from the 6,750-strong collection to be displayed.

Artist impression of the propose expansion.

“On behalf of all Novocastrians, I would like to extend profound thanks to the Ryan family for this remarkable pledge, which will stand as a wonderful legacy to the lives of Valerie and John Ryan,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“If the valuable bequest is dedicated to the Gallery’s expansion, it could significantly bolster our efforts to seek state and federal funding to finally get on with the $36 million project.

“It will extend the 43-year-old building east and along Darby Street to Queen Street with a stunning glass façade that will draw people into a new street-level café, retail shop and exhibition space below a sprawling first-floor area.

“This will create a proud new Gallery of international standing for the people of the Hunter while also offering Newcastle a valuable cultural tourism opportunity.”

The Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation and the community have already raised more than $1.2 million for the Gallery’s expansion, which will take between 18 and 24 months to complete when work begins.

Valerie Ryan became an Art Gallery Foundation member in 2009 and Governor in 2014 through her generous support of the permanent collection and Gallery initiatives.

She is survived by nieces Megan McManus, who lives in Northern New South Wales and New Zealand-based Belinda McManus. Members of John’s extended family live in Newcastle.

Gallery Director Lauretta Morton said the family could be proud that the Ryans’ legacy will live on in Newcastle’s art community.

“It is through John and Valerie’s incredible and continued generosity that procuring important works of art for the city’s collection have been made possible,” Ms Morton said.

“We are thrilled that through this extraordinary gift to the Foundation they will continue to benefit their beloved Gallery and the Newcastle community for generations to come.”

Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation is an independent charity that provides philanthropic support to Newcastle Art Gallery.