The Art Gallery of Ontario received a $10 million donation from 20 Italian-Canadian families at a special ceremony on Wednesday.

The AGO, which is in the midst of renovations, will name its new sculpture gallery Galleria Italia in honour of the gift.

The prominent Toronto-area families each contributed $500,000. The generosity prompted Italy's ambassador to Canada to announce he would be trying to secure sculptures from his homeland for the facility's expansion, The Globe and Mail reported.

"Such an endeavour (the donation) should not go unmatched on the Italian side, and I'm sure it will not go unmatched on the Italian side," Gabriele Sardo told an enthusiastic crowd of about 240, including representatives of each of the families.

AGO vice-president Tony Gagliano, who was the prime mover behind the $10 million gift, told the crowd the initiative was drawn up because of the families' love for Canada and Italy.

"(The move) signals the love we feel for Italy while honouring Canada, the country we have also come to love, and where most of us learned that anything and everything is possible," he said.

"Finally, this one initiative will also pay tribute to our ancestors: Da Vinci, Bernini, Michelangelo and others."

Among the prominent families are the Longos and Pusateris, founders of the grocery chains, and the Sorbara family, who are well known in construction circles. Greg Sorbara is Ontario's finance minister.

The new glass-walled gallery is a 180-metre-long promenade that will run the entire east-to-west width of the AGO.

The Frank Gehry redesign is scheduled to open to the public next June. The AGO will be closed starting in October to complete construction and installation of the collection.

AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum welcomed the "milestone" gift and announced the AGO is commissioning a yet-to-be-determined work of art to be unveiled when the facility reopens.

The $10-million donation means the gallery has now raised 87 per cent of the $207 million it budgeted for its transformation campaign. The overall cost of the expansion is $254 million.

The project was kick-started in late 2002 when art collector Kenneth Thomson, then-chairman of The Globe and Mail, announced he was giving the AGO $70 million in cash and art valued at more than $300 million.