Arts

Employees at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts argue that directors ouster was justified

Nathalie Bondil, the former director general and chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Marco Campanozzi

Saying that harassment and intimidation had been “daily occurrences”, a group of more than 100 current and former employees of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) has issued a letter declaring that the dismissal of their former director general and chief curator, Nathalie Bondil, was justified.

Bondil was ousted on 13 July by the museums board of directors, which cited “disturbing” reports from staff members about a “toxic” workplace atmosphere. The dismissal followed an investigation into the employee allegations that the board commissioned from a consulting firm.

In their letter, issued late Monday, the employees write that under Bondils leadership, “employees voices were not heard. Professionals ideas were largely rejected or reformulated by a director general more concerned with her personal reputation than that of the museum.”

“Worse still,” they write, “the success of projects developed by employees were rarely credited to them. Instead, credit went to the director general and her close allies.”

Bondil, 53, who had led the museum since 2007, has countered that her dismissal arose from her opposition to the appointment of Mary-Dailey Desmarais, a curator from an affluent Quebec family that is prominent in the provinces cultural affairs, as the director of the museums curatorial division. Bondil has drawn support from colleagues at several other institutions, among them the Musée dOrsay and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, who argue that she was a dynamic leader who put the MMFA on the map and sharply increased attendance and exhibition space.

Her dismissal has also been broadly debated in the Canadian art world, and Quebecs culture minister has ordered an inquiry into whether it was justified. The museum was also placed on "concerned status" by the Canada Council for the Arts, which could affect future funding.

In an email today, Bondil suggested that employees were coerced into signing the letter. “I am not at war against the museum, and overall against its cherished team, she says. “I am devastated when I see names of good friends and esteemed colleagues. They call me, and I understand the pressure they have in such circumstances. I know their fear of losing their jobs during our Covid times.

“I regret the museum chair [Michel de la Chenelière] is supporting this communication, which divides the team, with the help of a private communication agency against one individual, me, who does not have intended any legal procedure, she adds. “It seems that having been fired is not enough.

“Waiting for the government investigation report based on facts, I remain confident there will be a positive and constructive conclusion to this story for all of us, Bondil adds. Some employees of the museum, insisting on anonymity out of concern for keeping their jobs, contacted The Art Newspaper to say that staff members were strongly urged to sign the letter within a short time frame.

In the letter, however, the employees say they finally found it necessary to speak out against Bondil. “Confronted with the torrent of commentary and public taking of positions, we have stayed out of it and tried to focus on our work,” the employees write. “But enough is enough now.”

“We recognise Nathalie Bondils vision and her success in further raising the MMFAs profile,” they say. But during her tenure as both director general and chief curator, “harassment and intimidation were daily occurrences, often taking place before witnesses, especially during exhibition iRead More – Source