Jul 18

Newcastle council lifts ban on Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation dealings

NEWCASTLE City Council wants to move on from the Brett Whiteley Black Totem II sculpture saga, lifting an eight-month ban on dealings with the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation.

The council imposed the ban on dealing with the foundation in February when the sculpture fiasco began.

Last week the council voted to resume co-operation. A report to the council included a letter from the foundation that detailed its role in the acquisition of Whiteley’s Black Totem II sculpture that stands outside the gallery.

Former gallery director Ron Ramsey and his boss Judy Jaeger were sacked over their involvement in the acquisition.

It later emerged that while the sculpture was donated to the gallery by the late artist’s wife Wendy, the gift was reliant on the foundation donating $350,000 to the Brett Whiteley Foundation, of which Wendy Whitely is a board member.

The council claimed it was was not aware of the donation to the foundation and said the deal exposed it to breaches of tax and charitable gift laws.

The foundation made its first donation of $100,000 for the sculpture to the Brett Whiteley Foundation in November 2013, shortly after it was installed outside the gallery.

In July this year, the foundation board agreed not to make any more donations until the council had completed its investigations.

In a letter to the council, the gallery foundation acknowledged that a donation of $350,000 (in instalments) was materially linked to, or a condition of, the donation of the sculpture.

The foundation board said it believed it was not under a legally binding obligation to make any further payments to the Brett Whiteley Foundation.

However, council staff expect the gallery foundation to continue making payments to the Brett Whiteley Foundation and have asked for the foundation to liaise with the council’s general manager before doing so.

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