July 19, 2008
Janice called it a celebration of life and art. The job was the most seductive an artist-art educator could imagine. The building itself, the collection it houses, the people who worked there, the surrounding cafes, parks, shops, the views from the windows, the light, the Garden, our walks nearby, coffee breaks and lunches together, morning greetings, casual hellos, hugs through difficulties, laughter and storytelling, the magic of introducing the idea of art to the most reluctant visitor, familiar faces – embodied, painted in oils, interpreted in stone, bronze, marble and paint, familiar characters for whom we develop affections in spite of ourselves . . . The decision to leave was difficult and it took many months. Doors were opening. I always had my graduate studies.
Before I left I wanted to share work I had done on the interface between visual arts and the non-linearity of new technologies through grad studies etc with those at the gallery who were interested. I was able to get a lecture hall, audio and video equipment, and technicians to help with the overhead. I asked if I could use the empty space once occupied by a cafeteria which was rarely used to have some food and music afterwards. It was near the group entrance under the water court. It all came together somehow. Two friends one Inuk (Bill Ekomiak) and the other French Canadian, who were also musicians came with their fiddles and music. I rented silver trays which were filled with whatever foods friends and colleagues brought with them. I provided coffee urns with fresh coffee from a nearby coffee shop. I donated a painting to the Friends of the Gallery, the volunteer art educators (docents) with whom I worked over that decade. It was a small painting of a detail of the Great Hall overlooking the Parliamentary Library. The Library itself was represented in miniature as an upside down reflection in the water of a half-empty-half-full wine/water glass.
Creative energy comes with a price and artists are not easy to work with even in our most cooperative moments. We were an unusual group at an unusual time. Most of the time we enjoyed a collegial harmony. For awhile it seemed to be beneficial for the dozen contract art educators, the gallery and the public. Certainly the comments from gallery visitors confirmed that. We didn’t really know the details of each other’s agreements with the gallery but it is a safe bet that even those who received the most preferential treatment rarely if ever earned more than $25,000 a year. At least half of us were practicing studio artists. Some were art historians. Some had their MAs. Some were working on their PhDs. We were all competent researchers and educators. We enjoyed a heightened level of autonomy with minimal supervision.
To my surprise and at times consternation, there was astonishingly little exchange of information between contract art educators and art education officers who had offices in the administrative section. In the end this gave contract art educators greater freedom to delve into the abundant archives and library resources and to provide gallery visitors with in-depth knowledge combined with unique individual experience about countless works of art in the collection. The longer we were there, the more we learned and shared. We were valued as unique knowledge workers. We had the best of resources on hand and on site. Expert, experienced and generous librarians provided invaluable guidance to us with the same courtesy and concern they extend to curatorial staff. Curators themselves were often much more forthcoming with information about upcoming exhibits or the permanent collection than the Education Division. All talks from visiting scholars were open to us.
Those who offered to work on special exhibitions were provided with exhibition catalogues which gradually became personal favourites in my library. Special exhibitions were much more demanding to research since the catalogues were almost never available before the opening of the exhibition. So we often had to do our own research using many sources. Our first tours were at the vernissage. But for those of us willing to do the footwork, these special exhibitions were some of the highlights of the position of contract art educator. Thanks to the confidence placed in our world class curators, priceless works of art came to us! We could walk through these spaces alone for hours with these treasures, getting as close to them as security would allow (security device, security guards and our own automatic reflexes of self-regulation we came to adopt). Because we were contract workers whose paid hours were extremely limited each day, we all had in-between hours that we could chose to spend in any part of the gallery including collections, library, bookstore, etc. I really believe that because of the unique situation that I was able to spend more time with some individual works of art than most individuals ever would except perhaps for a handful of the most highly specialized curator, conservators, researcher and donors.
I kept in touch with some gallery friends and was warmly greeted there by friendly faces for many years. I still look forward with excitement to my visits to the NGC everytime I am in Ottawa.
But it was while visiting a close friend who had chosen to stay, sign the new contract, facilitate the sleepovers for children whose parents could afford to pay and wear the T-shirt that I had no regrets about leaving. As the wife of a professor who lived in various cultural centres in Europe, she had accumulated an invaluable wealth of knowledge and experience, as docent and as art lover, including at the Louvre – provided context for the National Gallery collection. During negotiations the NGC announced to us that they had been employing us illegally for over ten years. We were contract workers who were self-employed but we were not self-employed enough. We should have been permanent employees. But the permanent employees position they had in mind could be filled by BA students and paid accordingly. We were welcome to apply with all the other 20-year-old candidates but the position we had no longer existed. During our visit she confided that she was underwhelmed by the packaged-information she was asked to use. One of these themed visits included having young visitors counting objects in works of art based on various categories as a way to link math to art. It seemed to have been written by someone who knew nothing about mathematics, art, pedagogy or children. All they had to do was ask this talented intelligent woman to link works of art to mathematics geared to the student’s age group. She knows the collection inside out and all kinds of details about the works of art that might not be elaborated upon in other kinds of tours. She could have done it much more creatively and provided visitors with a unique tour.
When my sister sent me the link to the story of yet another contentious issue centred around Pierre Théberge I delved into my EndNote library and archives to put this latest fiasco into context. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. He is like a character from a Robertson Davies’s novel who roams the inner sanctum of the gallery as did eccentric art patron and collector Francis Cornish except he has a dog with him.
I started to fondly remember people who used to work at the gallery but who also voted with their feet. I pictured the colourful strike lines with Théberge depicted as Louis XIV and other protests like the red shoe event.
Monica had invited me to produce a pair of red shoes for the National Gallery Red Shoes event. By that time the act of painting and making the collage was cathartic. Papers related to those things at the gallery that were best forgotten were layered onto all surfaces of the shoes using acrylic medium. But I also added images of the Garden and paintings I had done over the years using the NGC as context. The shoes had been worn out on the gallery floors but I continued to wear them at home like a comfortable habit. By the time I layered them here they were coming apart at the seams. See Barton (2001)
poem from the reading by John BARTON:
INSTALLATION IN HOMAGE TO GATHIE FALK
on the picket line, National Gallery of Canada, May 2001
red shoes leading us forward, the porcelain-smooth leather dyed and the red not
dying, the efflorescence of sunset flushed through storm clouds glazed overhead
withholding the evaporated red rain of Belarus the wind blew west from Chernobyl
refugees for centuries walking westward in red shoes that looked black in the news
reels our parents watched after the whitest of nightly air raids during the darkest
of days brought to mind by red shoes lined up in single file down a public sidewalk
the shed shoes of Auschwitz or those removed before dance class, pairs of bound
feet called up to the bar, faces turned forward and looking en pointe into the blood
shot depths of the eye, red shoes leading past insomnia or hallucination to stare
down forethought and aftermath, power meant to be balanced and binary, hand
linked with hand rather than toe stepping on toe, the shoes we slip back into
forced to walk in circles in the public square outside the closed museum
where the shoes insist we belong, blood coursing in our interlocking veins, red
shoes leading us forward, umbrellas opening as one against the corrosive rain
Like the shoes I am torn.
How easy it is to convince oneself of the potential catharsis in unleashing.
But if we live long enough truth reveals itself in many ways. Those who seem so untouchable develop cracks.
When we look at structural changes taking place all around us, those who once seem so powerful begin to resemble Punch and Judy puppets rather than strong independent agents.
Pierre Théberge came to the NGC at the same time as outdated top-down business models already under scrutiny in more progressive sectors of the private sector were being embraced by those in positions of governance in the public sector. He did not invent his top-down parachute-in management style.
The arms-length policies intended to protect Crown corporations like the National Gallery of Canada from unwarranted state intervention, are particularly vulnerable to abuse by upper management should certain types of management styles prevail.
She was young, blond, trim, athletic, focused and fierce. She was hired by Bell to fire hundreds of employees in the 1990s and that was her opening remark in her first meeting with us along with, “If you don’t like it you can leave.” The aftermath of her arrival could only be described as tense. Everyone was tense all the time. I was so relieved I was not there anymore. She wasn’t a high-noon face-off girl. She was more like an execution squad facing powerless blind-folded victims. Those who were fired lost all rights to tell their stories openly. And there are so many stories to be told. Even today the image of security escorting friends trembling with shock carrying cardboard boxes sends shivers . . .
But perhaps the greater sadness came as we watched valued and experienced curators and administrators leave of their own volition unable to accept a dictatorial management style that was so unlike the two predecessors. So many exhibitions canceled and with them years of research seemingly lost . . .
Pierre Théberge’s arrival at the NGC in 1997 coincided with the formation of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and with it fund-raising at the gallery reached new levels.
Philanthropic foundations like the National Gallery of Canada Foundation created in 1997 are part of the golden age of philanthropy which is a global phenomenon. These new philanthropists are legal categorizations of nonprofit organizations that are highly specialized and concerned with measurable impact. Their work is strategic, market-conscious, knowledge-based, high-engagement and always involves maximizing leverage of the foundation’s assets.
Pierre Théberge’s arrival at the NGC in 1997 also coincided with changes in the capital-gains tax which led to a sharp increase in donations. “Until 1997, the full normal capital- gains tax was due; reducing the “inclusion rate” to 50 per cent in 1997 led to a sharp increase in such donations. The federal finance department told Angus’s committee each foregone dollar in tax revenue was linked to $13 in extra giving. (Angus 2005-01-30).”
Selected (subjective) timeline of events
1970s Pierre Théberge worked at the National Gallery rising to the position of curator of contemporary Canadian art.
1979 Pierre Théberge joined the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts as chief curator and later became director. He was nicknamed “Mr. Blockbuster” which can be considered as a derogatory term.
1987-1997 Shirley Thomson, C.C. 2008 Laureate was born and raised in St. Mary’s, Ontario, she left a teaching job for Montreal and, ultimately, Paris, where she worked as an editor for NATO. She returned to Canada to become assistant secretary-general of World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and later assistant secretary-general of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, working in the UN agency’s fields of education, science and culture. A decade later she was back in Montreal, enrolled at McGill as a Ph.D. student in art history, exploring the hunt theme in 18th-century palace decoration in France. Her McGill experience launched her career as a cultural administrator. As director of the McCord Museum (1982-1985), she turned a small university museum into a public research and teaching museum dedicated to the preservation, study and appreciation of Canadian history. After serving as secretary-general of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, she was appointed director of the National Gallery of Canada in 1987. Dr. Thomson and her professional team developed, over the decade of her tenure, a strong program that helped raise the Gallery’s profile. She served as director of the Canada Council for the Arts from 1998 to 2002, and as chair of the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board from 2003 to 2007.” www.citizenvoices.gg.ca/_pdf/ReportArtMattersVisualMediaArts2008.pdf
Colin Bailey was named as the National Gallery of Canada’s chief curator replacing Shirley Thomson.
1995 David Franklin won the 1995 Eric Mitchell Prize for Rosso in Italy: The Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino (published by Yale University Press, 1994)
1995 David Franklin won the Governors’ Award for Yale University Press for best press book by an author under the age of forty.
1997 The exhibition Renoir’s Portraits: Impressions of an Age, organized by the National Gallery of Canada in 1997, set a Gallery attendance record of 340,000 visitors.
1997 The exhibition entitled Baroque to Neo-Classical: Sculpture in Quebec was held at the National Gallery of Canada from February through May, Vancouver Art Gallery from July to October and the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon from October to January 1998. It was ten years in the making. Gallery director Shirley Thomson had charged Rene Villeneuve , Assistant Curator of Early Canadian Art with the task of mounting the exhibition in 1988 which was to cover Quebec sculpture from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Villeneuve also wrote the research-intense 201 page exhibition catalogue by the same name. Twenty important works were restored for the exhibition. Charlie Hill provided Villeneuve with constant encouragement during the preparation of the exhibition which Thomson described as having “masterfully convey[ed] an important, rich, and indeed fundamental aspect of our culture, inherited from France (Thomson 1997:7).” With the arrival of Pierre Theberge, Villeneuve’s research and unique curatorial skills were no longer promoted with any enthusiasm.
1997 Pierre Théberge, risk-taker in charge at Gallery: Pierre Theberge succeeds Thomson (Gessell 1997). Dr. Shirley Thomson was a popular director who treated everyone in her employ with respect.
1997 Until 1997, the full normal capital- gains tax was due; reducing the “inclusion rate” to 50 per cent in 1997 led to a sharp increase in such donations. The federal finance department told Angus’s committee each foregone dollar in tax revenue was linked to $13 in extra giving. Angus believes the multiplier would be even greater if the capital-gains tax were dropped altogether (Angus 2005-01-30).”
“The tax treatment of donations of shares is more favourable in the US than in Canada, and it was argued that the remaining capital gains tax on gifted securities in Canada should be eliminated. Since the 50% reduction in the capital gains tax for such gifts was eliminated in 1997, there has been a dramatic increase in donations. Eliminating the remaining 50% would stimulate even more. A member of the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada stated that, “the single most important step which the government can take to assist our arts organizations and every charitable sector, including health care, education and social services, to raise additional money, is to eliminate the remaining capital gains tax on gifts of listed securities.” (NACF 2002:6)
1997 The NGC Foundation was created. Donald and Beth Sobey gave generously oftheir time and financial support through the Foundation.
1997 The Audain Foundation was established. Michael Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes Ltd., and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, are active supporters of the arts since the 1980s. Michael Audain served on the Vancouver Art Gallery board for many years, including in the role of president. Michael is now Chair of their Foundation. In 2004, Business for the Arts honoured Michael with the Edmund C. Bovey Award for leadership in the arts. He was appointed to the National Gallery of Canada Board of Trustees in 2005 and to the Order of British Columbia in 2007.
1997-2009 Pierre Théberge served as director of the National Gallery of Canada, the second-longest term for a National Gallery director.
1998 David Franklin joined the National Gallery as Curator of Prints and Drawings.
NGC. 2000-04-03. “National Gallery of Canada Comes to Amicable Agreement with Educator Guides.” Press Release. NGC:Ottawa. http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/558_890.htm
2000 Kitty Scott began working at the NGC in contemporary art where she found that the NGC collection did not include many works by highly sought after artists from Western Canada who were working in a complex way across film, photography, video and installation. There were no works by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, or by the younger artists Brian Jungen, Geoffrey Farmer or Althea Thauberger at the time. She began to acquire more works by Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham as well as a film and a photographic series by Stan Douglas. http://www.canadianart.ca/art/features/2007/06/01/serpentine/
2001-02-21 Pierre Théberge National Gallery of Canada Director and Curator Appointed to the Order of Canada
2001-05-10 On May 10, 2001 200 technicians, installers and administrative staff at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography embarked went on the first general strike in the history of these institutions. It is noteworthy that David Franklin brought strikers doughnuts on the strike line (Geddes 2008-07-09). Relations between gallery staff and Pierre Theberge remained rocky ever since this strike.
The strike was timed to coincide with an $1.8 million exhibition of the works of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt which opened on June 15. Strikers won the support of the public as well as prominent Canadian artists such as Michael Snow. And the strike seems to have attracted visitors since there were 500 more visitors than the projection figure of 18,000 for June! One of the areas of concern was the need for a corporate anti-harassment policy. Gallery administration spent lavishly to hire lawyers and security officers instead of tabling a fair offer. The red shoes displayed on the Gallery plaza have become the symbol of their strike. Red shoes became a symbol of solidarity as strikers “placed hundreds of pairs of donated footwear — painted a brilliant, scarlet hue — outside the museum (on Rideau Street) and gallery (on Sussex Drive) every day. [...] The whimsical appearance of the red shoes inspired workers to create songs, poetry, T-shirts and posters, delighted passers-by, and garnered more frequent media attention than any conventional, non-violent protest action could ever have done (Bemben 2002).”
“Art can be a form of action, and our picket lines can be seen as a work of performance art. In order to reinforce that concept, we, as a group, will create a collective work of art. Walking on the picket line is a burden on our feet, and our shoes become part of our plight. We are literally wearing out our shoes! [...] By placing our old shoes next to us on the picket line, we are visually representing the many, many miles that we have walked, and the labour that goes into walking the line. We are labouring on behalf of labour. Our shoes also embody our individuality — they are personal artifacts. By painting our old shoes all the same shade of red, we are symbolizing our passion and solidarity as a group. [...] Lately, our feet have been taking us in a different direction, but we hope to soon have a fair contract and be walking back inside our beloved institutions (Strike posters cited by Bemben 2002).”
The NGC was forced to “postpone indefinitely an exhibition of work by Montreal photographer Pierre Boogaerts at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (part of the National Gallery). “Attendance to our permanent collections has been down,” admits Joanne Charette, the National Gallery’s public-affairs director. “We’ve had to cancel educational tours for students, which usually adds to our figures in May and June.” The strike was in full force when the museum’s Gustav Klimt exhibition opened on June 15. Charette says that attendance for the show, at 18,500 visitors in June, is actually above the projected figure of 18,000. The show cost Can. $1.8 million and required three years to organize. To compensate for the postponement of the Boogaerts show, the current exhibitions of work by Larry Towell and Diana Thorneycroft have been extended until September 3 (Jana 2001).”
2003 NGC. 2003-09-23. “Board of Trustess Supports National Gallery of Canada Director. Press Release. NGC: Ottawa. http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/552_1072.htm
2003 Attendance at the National Gallery of Canada 455,000, down 13 percent from 2002. http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/550_988.htm
2003 Donald Sobey, entrepreneur and collector of Canadian art from Stellarton, Nova Scotia, donated $1 million gift through the “Donald and Beth Sobey Chief Curator’s Research Endowment. Under the guidance of the Gallery’s Chief Curator, Dr. David Franklin, this fund gives the National Gallery the opportunity to conduct and publish scholarly research of national and international scope (NGC. 2007-01-11).”
2003-2004 “The Government increased the Gallery’s acquisitions budget in 2003-2004 to restore some of its lost purchasing power and allow it to continue building the national collection for future generations. The budget, supplemented by the generous support of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, made possible several important purchases, including Quebec painter Ozias Leduc’s Portrait of Gertrude Leduc, Jacopo Pontormo’s Renaissance drawing Reclining Male Nude, and Douglas Gordon’s contemporary video work Play Dead: Real Time. The Gallery increased its holdings of First Nations and Inuit art with works including Norval Morisseau’s Observations of the Astral World and Brian Jungen’s whale skeleton sculpture Vienna.” http://www.national.gallery.ca/english/550_988.htm
2004 David Franklin’s book entitled Treasures of the National Gallery of Canada
2005-04-06 The appointment of Diana Nemiroff as the new Director of the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) effective July 4 was announced. “Diana Nemiroff has garnered an international reputation in the contemporary art world. She has been a senior curator at the National Gallery of Canada since 1990 and has held assistant and associate curator positions with the Gallery since 1983 dealing mainly with contemporary and 20th-century art. She has organized many successful exhibitions including her favourite Crossings, a highly acclaimed 1998 exhibition of works in various media that examined the situation of people migrating from one country to another. The exhibition Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada, which she organized with Charlotte Townsend-Gault and Robert Houle, broke new ground in the recognition of First Nations artists in Canada, and won the Janet Braide Memorial Award for its contributions to Canadian art history. Two of her exhibitions, 3 x 3: Flavin, Andre, Judd and Protean Picasso: Drawings and Prints from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada [toured Canada in 2005]. She also planned and installed the collection of contemporary art for the opening of the National Gallery’s new building in 1988.” http://www.carleton.ca/duc/News/news04060501.html
“Diana Nemiroff has been the director of the Carleton University Art Gallery since 2005. Before joining the staff of Carleton University, she worked for over 20 years at the National Gallery of Canada, where she developed a national reputation as a curator of contemporary art. She has numerous exhibitions to her credit, including recent monographic displays by Damian Moppett (2006), Lyne Lapointe (2007) and Pascal Grandmaison (2008). As a curator at the National Gallery, she has been recognized for her work on group exhibitions such as The Canadian Biennial of Contemporary Art / La biennale d’art contemporain canadien (1989); Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada / Terre, esprit, pouvoir: les premières nations au Musée des beaux-arts du Canada (1992); Crossings / Traversées (1998); and Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize / Paradis insaisissables : le prix du millénaire (2001). These shows surveyed the national and international contemporary art scene, identifying issues around the presentation of Aboriginal art, globalization, and the environment, and how it has affected the art world in recent years.
Diana Nemiroff was born in London, England, and was raised and educated in Montreal, where she studied at the École des beaux-arts, before earning both a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree at Concordia University. She is a board member of the Canadian Museums Association and is vice president of the University and College Art Galleries Association of Canada. In addition to her museum experience, she has a background as a critic and writer, and continues to write on contemporary and modern art for a variety of independent projects.” http://www.citizenvoices.gg.ca/_pdf/ReportArtMattersVisualMediaArts2008.pdf
2005-05-28. The National Gallery of Canada Foundation held its first national fundraising event, the Renaissance Ball which generated one million dollars. Thomas d’Aquino, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors thanked Marie Claire Morin, President and CEO of the Foundation and her team and she in turn thanked thanked Thomas d’Aquino, saying, “Through his leadership, vision and commitment, Thomas d’Aquino accomplished an incredible feat by bringing together such a prestigious group of art patrons and philanthropists. Without him, the Renaissance Ball would simply not have been possible.”(NGC. 2005-06-03).
2005 David Franklin’s “first big splash as chief curator was the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence. It was the Florence show that caught the eye of curators at Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum, leading them to partner with the National Gallery on a Bernini sculpture show, slated to open in [July of 2008] at the prestigious Getty, before moving to Ottawa for a fall and winter run (Geddes 2008).”
2006 “Kitty Scott left her post as National Gallery curator of contemporary art [in 2006], in part, because of her frustration in getting gallery management to mount contemporary art exhibitions (Gessell 2008-06-10).” In a interview with Canadian Art she described changes that the NGC should consider, “In terms of contemporary art there needs to be more of it, both national and international. This means more exhibitions, acquisitions, publications, conferences and talks with artists, writers and theorists. The best institutions work closely with their curators, the experts, to bring these programs to fruition. And these programs must be seriously marketed—nationally and internationally—and use the Web in innovative ways. As well, I think the NGC would benefit from being more closely aligned with artists. Many museums have artists on their boards. I also believe that the NGC should play a more formative role in teaching students of museology, art history, conservation, museum management, design history, art and curating across Canada. I am sure universities would welcome this. And I think there could be stronger ties with the major collectors and dealers across the country. These people should be regarded as family and they should be made to feel more welcome. It would also be great if the National Gallery of Canada could develop relationships with other Canadian institutions so that the collection of contemporary art could be seen more widely. While the idea of summer exhibitions in Shawinigan is interesting, I wonder about it, practically speaking. Ottawa is already remote, as the number of people visiting the institution shows, so why explore even more remote territory? What is the logic? Why not open a small space in the heart of Montreal, or St. John’s for that matter?” http://www.canadianart.ca/art/features/2007/06/01/serpentine
2006 The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is extremely proud to announce an extraordinary gift of $2 million dollars for the creation of The Audain Endowment for Contemporary Canadian Art. The Audain Foundation, a British Columbia-based family trust, generously made this donation, the largest in the history of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. “This fund will ensure that the National Gallery of Canada will have the ability to acquire Canadian contemporary art, and to focus on the unique talents of artists from Canada with an emphasis on British Columbia” says Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. “We wish to thank the Audain Foundation, and in particular Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa, or their generous gift to the National Gallery and the visual arts commmunity.” “Canada from coast to coast has many important contemporary artists who deserve to be in the National Gallery’s collection, so our foundation is pleased to be able to give help in this regard,” said Michael Audain. “We are deeply grateful for this endowment, the single largest leadership gift to benefit living artists right across the country,” says Marie Claire Morin, President and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. Established in 1997, The Audain Foundation has made grants to 25 organizations for projects related to the visual arts. Mr. Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes Ltd., and his wife, Ms. Karasawa, have been active supporters of the arts for over 25 years. Serving on the Vancouver Art Gallery board from 1992 to 1998, including the role of president, Mr. Audain is now Chair of their Foundation. In 2004, the Council for Business and Arts honoured Mr. Audain with Canada’s Edmund C. Bovey Award for leadership in the arts. He was appointed to the National Gallery of Canada Board of Trustees in 2005. The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery and its affiliate, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, in fulfilling their mandates. By fostering strong partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy enables the National Gallery of Canada to preserve and interpret Canada’s visual arts heritage.”
2007 “Publication National Gallery of Canada Review V gets the support of the renowned Donald and Beth Sobey Chief Curator’s Research Endowment.” Mr. Sobey was Chairman of the NGC’s Board of Trustees and a member of the NGC Foundation’s Board of Directors. Donald Sobey was Chairman of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Canada; Director, Board of Directors, National Gallery of Canada Foundation; Member of the Founding Partner’s Circle of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation; Chairman Emeritus, Empire Company Limited; Director: Sobey Inc., Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., Atlantic Shopping Centres Limited, High Liner Foods Incorporated and President of the Sobey Art Foundation (NGC. 2007-01-11).
2007-12 Michael Audain, Chairman of the Vancouver-based Polygon Homes and his wife donated another $2 million to the NGC towards the creation of the Audain Curator of Indigenous Art Endowment. Combined gifts from the Audain Foundation have created a new threshold of $4 million for gifts by a single donor.
2008-05 Arts journalist noted in his blog that “Official advertisements seeking a replacement for the retiring Pierre Theberge have started appearing in newspapers. Far more emphasis is placed in the ad on management abilities than on knowledge of art. Maybe one of the government’s friends in the Calgary oil patch could take the job, assuming he or she was bilingual (Gessell 2008-05-21).”
2008-04-03 Pierre Theberge announced 10 job cuts, including five layoffs including highly regarded Anne Maheux, a senior paper conservator with more than 25 years of service. Among those laid off are three members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and one member of the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).
2008-04-16 The The Canadian Association of Emerging Conservators (CAEC-ACRE) argued that the removal of [Anne Maheux who has been constantly active in the conservation field, supervising paper conservation interns on a regular basis and contributing to conservation associations, research and publications] is ill advised. “Furthermore, the remaining senior paper conservator at the NGC, who is due to retire in a short period of time, has not for many years maintained a practice of taking on curriculum interns. The CAEC is concerned that after this gap in practice, the remaining senior paper conservator may not be willing and/or fully able to take over Ms. Maheux’s role as supervisor to future students in the NGC paper laboratory. In addition, the elimination of this position also brings forward the issue of succession planning, or lack thereof, a question which is central to the CAEC’s activities. With this loss in mind, one has to wonder what the state of the paper conservation department at the NGC will be in a few years.” http://caecacre.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/special-announcement/
2008-04 “Dear Mr. Theberge, The membership of the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property wish to convey our shock and extreme disappointment over the National Gallery of Canada’s recent decision to eliminate a full time position in the Conservation/Restoration Laboratory. Works of art on paper are among the most fragile and unforgiving of the Gallery’s collections, and are readily subject to irreparable damage if handled inexpertly. The CAC finds it unthinkable that the Gallery would dismiss a Conservator as highly regarded nationally and internationally as Anne Maheux, and assure you that we believe that neither the Gallery’s impressive collections of works of art on paper nor its professional reputation will be well served by this short sighted decision. The letter of explanation delivered to Gallery staff notes that the aim of the cuts was a 5% reduction in the “least performing programs”. By what measure, we ask, is Ms. Maheux’s work considered to be “underperforming”? Ms. Maheux is widely regarded as one of the preeminent leaders in the field of conservation of works of art on paper worldwide. As well as a graduate of both Queens and Harvard Universities’ conservation programs, she is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, an accredited member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, a former President of this organization and member of our Board of Directors for many years. Her enormous commitment to her profession is self-evident. Among her many internationally significant accomplishments are her seminal research into the works of Degas, her contributions on development of mounting systems for oversized works, her work with contemporary works of art, and her efforts toward establishment of a federal Museums Policy. Colleagues with whom I have spoken are unanimous in describing her work as exemplary. The CAC urges you to reconsider the elimination of this position and the employment of Ms. Maheux personally. Not to do so will cause the Gallery’s reputation irreparable harm in the eyes of the Canadian conservation community. Sincerely, Dee A. Stubbs-Lee, President, CAC/ACCR CC: Mr. Donald R. Sobey – Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery; Mr. David Franklin – Deputy Director and Chief Curator, National Gallery; Mr. Stephen Gritt – Chief, Restoration Conservation Laboratory, National Gallery; Ms. Lise Labine – Director, Human Resources, National Gallery.” http://www.cac-accr.ca/pdf/Ministerletter.pdf
2008-05-08 PSAC. 2008-05-08. “Federal Program Reviews Mean Layoffs and Downgraded Services at the National Gallery of Canada.” Ottawa. “Jobs will be lost and corners will be cut at the National Gallery of Canada as a result of the federal government’s revolving “strategic review” of program spending in targeted departments and agencies across the federal government. Selected to undergo a review in 2007 along with 16 other departments and agencies, the National Gallery was directed to cut its budget by five per cent. Where the recent federal budget released in February referred to “better use of internal resources and administrative efficiencies” in the museums sector, the plain truth was announced by the Director of the National Gallery on April 3 when he announced 10 job cuts, including five layoffs – one of those to a senior paper conservator with more than 25 years of service. Among those laid off are three members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and one member of the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada (PIPSC). Director Pierre Thèberge also said the five per cent cut dictated by the strategic review process will necessitate other cuts that will have an impact on the Gallery’s publishing and marketing capacity. Events and exhibitions will have to be scaled back and training will also have to be curtailed, according to Thèberge. Reaction to the cuts, and in particular to the position of the senior paper conservator, has been swift. Numerous letters to Thèberge from senior gallery staff, trustees and conservators say the cuts call into question the gallery’s commitment and its ability to fulfill its mandate to expand and conserve its extensive collections. PSAC is currently considering a range of actions in response to the employer’s actions. Ed Cashman, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region, argued that, “These cuts will not only hinder the Gallery’s ability to carry out its mandate, they will also have a significant impact on smaller museums across the country that rely on the gallery’s collections to draw visitors into their facilities.” http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/May2008/08/c6375.html?view=print
2008 “The gallery’s contemporary art shows [1998-2008] have been largely limited to retrospectives of aging artists who generally did their best work half a century ago when Pierre Theberge was curator of contemporary Canadian art at the very institution he now heads. Examples in recent years: Alex Colville, Norval Morrisseau, Gathie Falk, Bette Goodwin (Gessell 2008-06-10).”
2008 National Gallery promotes its blockbuster (June-September 2008) called “The 1930s: The `New Man’” – which promises to be one of the most intriguing art shows of the year. Featuring more than 200 works by artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Diego Rivera and many others, it looks at an era when Marxist and Fascist regimes in Russia, Germany and Italy were trying to create a “superman” without human weaknesses (Knelman 2008). This is a strange choice by a man known for his dictatorial management style. The 1930s has been the subject of major thematic exhibitions in Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, and Paris. The NGC version examines the connection between art and biology. “In the 1930s, biology became a force for change, often destructive, notably in its racist and eugenicist forms that sought to “improve” the human species. During this decade, the opposed concepts of the “degenerate” – or “mentally ill” – artist, as described by the Nazi ideology of the Third Reich, and the “superman” or “new man” became widespread. These ideologies were to have a profound influence on forms of art and representation.” The works presented in this exhibition come from private and public collections in Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States grouped under nine themes: Genesis, Convulsive Beauty, “The Will to Power”, The Making of “The New Man”, Mother Earth, The Appeal of Classicism, “Faces of our Time”, “Crowds and Power”, and The Charnel House. The organizing committee is chaired by the director of the National Gallery of Canada, Pierre Théberge. Its members comprise the following curators: Jean Clair, retired director of the Musée Picasso in Paris; Didier Ottinger, of the Centre Georges Pompidou; Constance Naubert-Riser, professor emeritus, Université de Montréal; Ann Thomas, the NGC’s Curator of Photography and the NGC’s director of National Outreach and International Relations, Mayo Graham, who acts as the committee’s coordinator. excerpts from http://national.gallery.ca/english/540_2091.htm
2008-07-03 National Gallery director Pierre Théberge sent an email to gallery staff “dedicated one nondescript sentence to announcing deputy director David Franklin’s leave and two extensive paragraphs detailing the career achievements of his “interim” replacement, Mayo Graham, who worked closely with Mr. Théberge at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts before following him to the gallery a decade ago. Some have even described Ms. Graham, who was serving as director of national outreach and international relations, as Mr. Théberge’s protégé. Sources close to the gallery said the current tensions are rumoured to have come out of a dispute between Mr. Franklin and Mr. Théberge over the planned dismissal of another employee, which then escalated into a rift between them and made Mr. Franklin feel unwelcome (Alphonso and Bradshaw 2008-07-18).” Although David Franklin often replaced Pierre Théberge in public relations they were not close colleagues. Mr. Blockbuster, Pierre Theberge promotes activities that are part of a movement within museums globally in the 1990s that are criticized by some as being categorize are part of the dumbing-down of museums. David Franklin is a scholar.
It was widely believed that the two men were not close colleagues.
Webliography and Bibliography
Alphonso, Caroline; Bradshaw, James. 2008-07-18. “Gallery’s dirty laundry receives private airing
Federal Court seals file on application for judicial review of case involving dispute between top administrators at National Gallery.” Globe and Mail
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Bemben, Linda. 2002. “Poetry: Striking Red Shoes, An Introduction” Our Times.
Geddes, John. 2008-07-09. “Intrigue at the National Gallery: An out-of-the-blue announcement that the chief curator is on leave has people talking.” Macleans.
Gessell, Paul. 2008-05-21. “But can he discuss art?” Art and the City.
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