Paul Mellon, the philanthropist, collector and art museum builder said yesterday he may help build a new West Wing for Richmond's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

"The proposal is still tentative," said Mellon. "No plans have been drawn up, no architect selected -- these things, of course, take time." The Richmond Times-Dispatch had reported that Mellon and collectors Sydney and Frances Lewis were considering providing the funds for the $10-million addition.

"Of course I can't speak for the Lewises," said Mellon, "but the story is roughly true."

Lewis, the owner of Best Products Co., could not be reached for comment. Mellon, the chairman of the board of the National Gallery of Art, helped pay for its East Building; a graduate of Yale, he has also built a new museum for his collection of English art at that university.

Mellon, a former Virginia Museum trustee, is lending 59 of his pictures to a survey exhibition there called "150 Years of French Painting." The Lewises also have long supported that museum. Selections from their collections of art nouveau and contemporary art are now there on loan.

Because the state would maintain the new West Wing, Virginia's governor would have to give his approval before construction could begin, said Mellon. "The governor knows of my intentions, he added, "but no official proposal has been submitted yet.

"It has always been my intention to give, or leave, some of my French pictures to the museum," Mellon said. "Those now on loan there are displayed in the temporary exhibition galleries; they have very little permanent exhibition space."

The Lewises, who already have given the museum an art nouveau gallery, and a fund for the purchase of contemporary works, own one of the state's finest collections of contemporary art.