In a shocking move from one of Canada’s keystone art institutions, the National Gallery of Canada has laid off four of its senior members abruptly. The gallery states that this shift is related to a “restructuring” of the institution, but as is the case with any such matters, there is a major side unaddressed by official statements. One of the outgoing members, Audain senior curator of Indigenous art Greg Hill, states his layoff is due to his disagreeing with colonial practices and sentiments within the NGC.
Greg Hill, who has been with the gallery for over two decades and was the first Indigenous curator at the gallery, took to Instagram the second the news broke:
“I want to put this out there before it is spun into meaningless platitudes. The truth is, I’m being fired because I don’t agree with and am deeply disturbed by the colonial and anti-Indigenous ways the Department of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization is being run.”
This especially comes as a surprise given the recent direction that the NGC has taken in regard to decolonizing the way the gallery presents itself and endeavours relating to the inclusion of Indigenous voices in both the content of the gallery as well as how its runs. Interim director and CEO Angela Cassie states that this move will help “better align the gallery’s leadership team with the organization’s new strategic plans.”
Hill isn’t the only individual affected, with deputy director and chief Kitty Scott also being let go after three years as the gallery’s sole woman to hold this position permanently. Alongside Scott and Hill are the director of conservation and technical research Stephen Gritt and the senior manager of communications Denise Siele.
Without a doubt a sudden and major change to the National Gallery of Canada, we have no way to confirm what truly fuelled this action. But if Greg Hill is to be believed in this whiplash severance of key members who marked historical moments of inclusion for Canada’s largest gallery, there is something deeply worrying about the gallery’s future—especially given its gestures of their decolonized future.