Sell Newcastle's art to someone who"wants and deserves it"

NEWCASTLE should sell its art collection to a region that ‘‘wants and deserves it’’, said a former Newcastle Art Gallery director appalled at the sacking of Ron Ramsey and concerned about the gallery’s future.

David Thomas, who was the gallery’s second director between 1965 and 1975, said he was embarrassed for the city over the string of recent controversies involving the gallery, culminating in the sacking of director Mr Ramsey on Monday this week.

‘‘They are insulting all the people, myself included, who have given so much over the years to make it the great gallery it is.’’ - David Thomas

A restructure that ended the role of gallery director, a multimillion-dollar redevelopment that’s been shelved, and the sacking of Mr Ramsey and council manager Judy Jaeger over the Black Totem II ‘‘donation’’ saga were being discussed by the arts industry across the country, Mr Thomas said.

It was distressing for the many people who had built up the gallery and its collection over decades.

‘‘They are insulting all the people, myself included, who have given so much over the years to make it the great gallery it is,’’ he said.

‘‘May I suggest the council sell the gallery collection so that it goes to another area that wants and deserves it.’’

The gallery’s collection of more than 5000 works of art was regarded as one of the finest in regional Australia, he said.

Mr Thomas’s scholarship on the artist Rupert Bunny resulted in ‘‘exceptional purchases and donations’’, according to the gallery.

Mr Thomas, who famously clashed with the council over his purchase of an early Fred Williams painting for $1600, said he felt ‘‘very, very sorry for Ron [Ramsey]’’, and is worried about the gallery’s future.

‘‘He’s a man of considerable talent, and what he’s done for that gallery is absolutely superb,’’ he said.

He worried about the gallery’s future without a gallery director.

‘‘There seems to be so much ill will about it all, and with ill will you’re not going to win anything.

‘‘I wish they all would come to the reconciliation table for the sake of the gallery, and the city.’’

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