The James and Diana Ramsay Fund is the Art Gallery of South Australia’s most visionary fund for the development of its collection; it is bestowed by James Stewart Ramsay AO (1923–1996) and Diana May Ramsay AO (1926–2017). Their names are synonymous with arts patronage in South Australia, and indeed Australia. Since 1972, their gifts of art have deeply enriched the Gallery’s collection. Together they have supported South Australia and its future with great passion, dedication and purpose. Their gift of profound generosity to AGSA is dedicated to the acquisition of major works of art. As a powerful momentum for collection excellence, the Fund will ensure that the AGSA collection expands its national and international prominence. The collection is already the state’s most valuable cultural asset. The culmination of these generous dual bequests provide a potent avenue to significantly grow the collection and directly benefit all South Australians.
James Ramsay’s love for the arts and medicine started early. He was the son of distinguished surgeon Sir John Ramsay and the nephew of the celebrated artist Hugh Ramsay. At the age of ten, when escorted through the Gallery by her father, Diana Ramsay’s love of art was ignited, and it was the Nora Heysen painting, Scabious, 1930, that she admired the most. In James, she found in 1960 a fellow art lover and passionate advocate for culture. They joined the Friends of the Gallery in 1969, and in 1981 they became founding members of the Art Gallery Foundation.
These bequests build on the Ramsay’s long, heartfelt and fruitful relationship with the Gallery. James and Diana’s donations have made a dramatic impact on the Gallery’s collections of Australian, Asian and International art. Since 1969 their generosity has assisted the Gallery in countless ways, particularly in acquiring or donating more than 80 works of art for the collection by artists as diverse as Angelica Kauffmann, Marcel Breuer, Hugh Ramsay, Thea Proctor, Bridget Riley, and most recently Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Olafur Eliasson. They also assisted the acquisition of major works including Prairie à Éragny, 1886, by Camille Pissarro. Spanning most art forms and several centuries of creative expression, one of the most visible works of art supported by James and Diana is Australian artist Lindy Lee’s mesmerising sculpture The Life of Stars, 2015, a landmark work of art at the threshold to the Gallery on North Terrace.
James and Diana were inspired to be great benefactors by the generosity of others before them, and in turn they hoped to inspire others to give in the future. Established in 2008 by Diana Ramsay, the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation fosters excellence in the arts and medical research and supports programs for youth empowerment. The James and Diana Ramsay Foundation has further supported AGSA’s innovative public programs, including Start at the Gallery, for young people and their families, and The Studio, a space for experimentation and creative making. Importantly, the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation also provided the vision and support in perpetuity for the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize, one of Australia’s most generous and dynamic art prizes for Australian artists under the age of 40.