National Gallery to honour Getty's gift

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The Independent Online

The American philanthropist Sir Paul Getty will have his name displayed on the outside of the National Gallery because of a £10m gift.

The money has been donated by his son, Mark, and his uncle, Gordon, Sir Paul's brother, who want the billionaire to be recognised for the millions he has given to the London gallery over the years.

The National Gallery's director, Neil MacGregor, has agreed that the £10m will go towards the gallery's redevelopment. As part of the changes, Sir Paul's name will be visible on the outside of the gallery in Trafalgar Square.

But Mr MacGregor ruled out any possibility of the name of the gallery being changed to the Paul Getty National Gallery. "That is a non-starter," he said.

Senior insiders believe there will probably be a sign saying "The Paul Getty Rooms at the National Gallery". Nevertheless, the decision will cause controversy in the light of Sir Paul's recent £5m donation to the Conservative Party.

The gallery's trustees expect to open the new entrance and to complete other improvements next year, when they hope that the long-promised pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square will take place, freeing more public space outside. Mr MacGregor said that the trustees had been assured by the Mayor's office that the pedestrianisation would be going ahead next year. The trustees said yesterday that they would go ahead with the redevelopment plans even if there was a delay in plans for the square.

The £10m gift will pay for about half the improvements. The National Gallery's development will include a new public entrance next to the main entrance, a new atrium and reception space, a cloakroom, a café and a shop.

Sir Paul gave £50m to the National Gallery in 1985 for the acquisition of paintings. Mark Getty, who runs the Hulton Getty picture library in Seattle, and his uncle, Gordon, wanted Sir Paul's contributions to be acknowledged publicly.

Mr MacGregor said yesterday: "Sir Paul is absolutely thrilled by this. Mark and Gordon came to us with this offer. They told us they wanted to give him a present. There wasn't exactly a lot of negotiating to do."

Also yesterday, the National Gallery announced it would open on Saturday nights next year in addition to opening on Wednesday evenings.

Mr MacGregor said that the National Gallery had set up a partnership scheme with Bristol Museums and Art Gallery and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, to create a series of shared, annual exhibitions that will be chosen and planned jointly by staff from the three galleries.

The idea is to make paintings from the National Gallery more widely available for viewing outside London. The exhibitions to be mounted at all three venues will include paintings from the National Gallery's collection of Old Masters.