Art gallery ex-director Ron Ramsey thanks city before leaving


SACKED Newcastle Art Gallery director Ron Ramsey is New York-bound, unfazed, unbeaten and ‘‘proud to have been part of bringing Black Totem II to Newcastle’’.

In his first public statement since Monday when he was unceremoniously told his job was over, Mr Ramsey thanked gallery volunteers, praised the city’s collection, and delivered a muted backhander to Newcastle City Council over the stalled art gallery redevelopment.

‘‘One day city leaders, recognising the cultural and potential economic benefit of owning and exhibiting such precious treasure, will fund a new gallery which, I trust, will prominently feature the controversial Black Totem II,’’ he said.

He declined to comment on whether he will take the council to the Industrial Relations Commission over his sacking, which shocked the Australian art industry.

He also declined to comment on the reasons for the sacking, saying ‘‘My head is already moving on’’.

‘‘I have had six wonderful years as director. The gallery is home to one of the finest collections in Australia and it has been a great privilege to nurture and grow this city’s most significant single asset,’’ he said.

He praised former council future city director Judy Jaeger, who was also sacked on Monday, and former assistant gallery director Tristan Sharp who resigned suddenly early this year to take up a new position.

He paid tribute to the gallery foundation and the gallery society.

Mr Ramsey said he considered his achievements to include restoration of the Joseph Lycett painting of Newcastle, important Aboriginal art acquisitions, the Ann Lewis  gift, the Margaret Olley  bequest and the recent Brett Whiteley exhibition.

‘‘We worked with award-winning architects to develop a perfectly feasible plan for the gallery development. We secured Commonwealth funds and the public gave generously,’’ he said.

He described the Brett Whiteley sculpture Black Totem II, as ‘‘one of the most significant and exciting public sculptures in Australia’’, despite the fact its controversial ‘‘donation’’ to the city contributed to his downfall.

‘‘I do not wish to add to the damaging debate of recent weeks except to say I am proud to have been part of bringing Black Totem II to Newcastle.

‘‘I intend now to take a break of a few months to undertake a small consulting job in New York, catch up with former colleagues in Washington DC and then decide where to next. Thank you Newcastle.’’

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