By Jeanette Beebe ’14
Patrick Ryan ’68 doesn’t do “art speak.” But he does know how to command the stage at an auction, rattling off antiques and art at break-neck speed to the highest bidder. Last Saturday, at the historic Benjamin Temple house and dairy farm in Ewing, N.J., where he was born and raised, Ryan auctioned off more than 80 items in 2 1/2 hours under a blazing hot sun — all for charity, to support the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Society.
Ryan has led a life of talking fast and moving faster. A long-time art collector and gallery owner, Ryan is just as comfortable in overalls and work boots as in seersucker shorts and a polo shirt.
He reckons he somehow “inherited the Irish gypsy gene,” a drive that rattled against the quiet rituals of his father’s 166-acre dairy farm: rising at 4:30 a.m. to milk 50 cows, twice per day. “The cows don’t care if it’s Christmas,” he remembers.
One item on the auction block was an original milk bottle from the Ryan family’s farm, which opened in 1903. “No one can believe that there was a dairy farm out in Jersey,” he says. “But that’s all there was: horses and cows and peaches.”
Ryan’s wanderlust took him far beyond his father’s dairy farm — to boarding school, to Princeton, and after graduation to law school in Washington, D.C., then homes in Chicago, Honolulu, Louisiana, La Jolla, San Francisco, Sante Fe, Oregon, Key Biscayne, Las Cruces — and home again, after five years as the director of an art gallery in Charleston, S.C., and nine years as a pecan farmer.
Last May, Ryan opened Gallery 353, a one-room art gallery in Princeton. Tucked within the basement of the McCarthy building on Nassau Street, the gallery’s current collection is as eclectic as Ryan’s background.
“It’s a great job to be able to sit and just enjoy beautiful things. Especially when you can’t lift — when you can’t do fence holes any more!” he laughs. Continue reading