The National Gallery of Canada has had an eventful time since the start of the pandemic. From its plans to restructure the gallery from the ground up—with Indigenous perspective and works being foundational—to a series of publicly divisive layoffs that caught the attention of the Canadian art industry at large, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. The NGC reopening happened this weekend, and with bright plans for the future, one wonders how it will fare.
The NGC reopening is only in relation to a small event, specifically two weeks of general maintenance. Coming into the new year, the gallery spoke in its press release to the boons of 2022 for the space, boasting a 27% increase in attendance from projections as well as higher visitor satisfaction than the year before. “Our transformative path forward is intended not only to invigorate our exhibits and our collection,” states interim director Angela Cassie, “but also to entice a new generation of Canadians to discover art and its power to open hearts and minds.”
Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of the scandalous layoffs in the press release, but it remains a hot topic tethered to the NGC. But The Globe and Mail has reported that the consultant in charge of the layoffs, Tania Lafrenière (who is now serving as both human resources director and interim chief operating officer) is seemingly being paid more than its CEO. The muddling of her role as a “consultant” and now a core permanent staff member has raised some eyebrows, as well as her generous payment.
Greg Hill, the former Indigenous curator for the gallery who was part of the layoffs during this period, had stated “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.” We have still received little to no statement or further insight into this contention between Hill and the NGC.
With the NGC reopening, they are looking forward to another banner year with 2023. From the current video installation of John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea to Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment to the work of Paul P., they have an eventful plan ahead of them. But the events that they seem keen to leave behind still don’t seem to have been reckoned with.