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News / April 26, 2018

News in Brief: National Gallery’s Chagall Sale To Be Cancelled, Sources Say, and More

All the latest developments in the Chagall deaccession drama at the National Gallery of Canada. Plus: Controversy at the AGO, Remai attendance numbers, award wins and more.
Chagall’s <em>La Tour Eiffel</em> at left; David’s <em>Saint Jerome</em> at right. Chagall’s La Tour Eiffel at left; David’s Saint Jerome at right.

The National Gallery of Canada’s Chagall–David drama keeps on coming. The Globe and Mail has reported this morning that the National Gallery is preparing to cancel its sale of Chagall’s La Tour Eiffel. Earlier this week, The Ottawa Citizen reported that members of the Chagall family had spoken out against the NGC’s decision to deaccession and sell the painting. “We deeply regret your decision,” Meret Meyer, representing the Chagall committee, stated in a letter quoted by the Citizen. “We hope that you will consider other solutions for your museum before implementing this pressing decision, which cannot be undone and is fraught with consequences.” Another recent roadblock for the NGC’s acquisition of the David: the Globe and Mail reported that “The Quebec government has intervened in a dispute between the National Gallery of Canada and two Quebec museums, pouring cold water on the Ottawa institution’s attempts to buy a historic French painting.” In terms of opinion pieces, Alan Freeman at iPolitics opines that gallery ego was a factor and that “what now is evident is that [NGC director Marc] Mayer was played, quite brilliantly, by the Catholic Church in Quebec City which owns the David painting of St. Jerome that Mayer is so desperate to get a hold of.” The National Gallery, for its own part, released another open letter on Monday that stated, “We wish to reassure Canadians, and especially Quebecers, that the National Gallery of Canada’s bid to acquire David’s Saint Jerome is in no way intended to pre-empt efforts by museums in Quebec to purchase the work.” (Ottawa Citizen, Globe and Mail, iPolitics, National Gallery of Canada)

The Art Gallery of Ontario has also been involved in a controversy this past week—namely, racist costumes in an artist project at a fundraising event. “The Art Gallery of Ontario has posted an apology on social media after it says an artist included racist costumes in a performance featured at a recent fundraiser party,” the Toronto Star reports. “In photos posted to Instagram, outfits sported at their Annual Massive Party on Thursday bore resemblance to traditional Asian rice hats as well as kimono-styled dresses.” The Massive Party was on April 19, and the AGO posted an apology to its Facebook page on April 21. Several commenters on the Art Gallery of Ontario Facebook page have indicated how the gallery needs to change in order to prevent such mistakes in future. Artist Immony Men, for one, states as feedback, “You better take some of that money from the fundraiser (2000 people x 175$ entry fee) and hire some Black-Indigenous-People of colour to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” (Toronto Star; Art Gallery of Ontario Facebook page)

The Remai Modern is reporting positive attendance results for its first six months of operation—mostly. According to the CBC, “Visitor numbers for the first six months of Saskatoon’s Remai Modern Art Museum are pacing well ahead of projections, no matter which of the several available numbers you’re using to compare. The museum saw 189,000 visits from its Oct. 21 opening to late April, according to statistics released by the museum on Friday.” What’s more “the museum said the six-month figure of 189,000 visits is ‘almost equal to our goal of 190,000 visits for the first full year.’” There is a slight catch, however: “Just under a quarter of the visits, or 43,971, were paid admissions. The 2012 business plan had envisioned half of visitors paying for entry during the course of the entire year.” (CBC News)

The Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Awards have been announced for 2018. Winners are Vera Frenkel, who receives the $10,000 Founders Achievement Award; Sandra Brewster, who wins the $15,000 Artist Prize; and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, which receives the $50,000 TFVA Trust Fund Award to create a speaker series. Finalists for the Artist Prize include Hazel Meyer and Camille Turner, who each receive $5,000. Project support also went to the Bentway (for an installation by Public Visualization Studio), Mercer Union (for a collaboration with RAGGA NYC and local queer Caribbean artists), the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (for a new work by Nep Sidhu), and Whippersnapper Gallery (for the video screening component of 2018 projects with the Black Artist Union). (press release, Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts)

A study shows compensation levels for arts managers and administrators have decreased since 2008. The study, commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage, shows that there have been only minimal compensation improvements. The Cultural Human Resources Council’s related release notes that this is true “particularly for small and mid-sized organizations which make up the majority of the arts organizations in the sector—and in fact, over the nine-year period since 2008, real wages actually decreased.” (Cultural Human Resources Council release, Canada Council page, full report link)

Quebec’s unique Triennale Banlieue (or Suburban Triennial) has released lineup details for 2018. The 2018 edition opens on July 29 and runs until November 4 in Laval. “Là où se prépare le futur” is the theme. Artists include Vancouver’s Henry Tsang, who will be presenting his work Orange County, which relates to architecture and migration in the suburbs. The new installation l’Île aux mouettes, will be presented by Quebec artist Catherine Bolduc, and is cobbled of domestic and found objects. Works are also on tap by Sonny Assu, Emmanuelle Léonard, Rajni Perera, and Marc-Antoine K. Phaneuf, among others. Author Juliana Léveillé-Trudel will also be working on a piece that integrates writing workshops and storytelling with a dozen Laval residents. The visual arts curators for the event are Julie Alary Lavallée and Jasmine Colizza. Maison des arts de Laval is lead institution on the event. (press release, Maison des arts de Laval)

Vancouver Art Gallery has announced Ian M. Thom’s retirement from the position of senior curator—historical. Thom will retire from his position at the Vancouver Art Gallery in June 2018 following a 30-year career with the gallery. Thom has been integral to the presentation of more than 100 exhibitions at the gallery and across Canada. Considered a leading expert of BC art and a scholar of Emily Carr’s works, Thom helped facilitate the entry of 119 works by original members of the Group of Seven into the collection, among other achievements. He worked with late collector Ron Longstaffe, who donated close to 800 works to the gallery before he passed away in 2003. Thom’s curatorial highlights include a Vancouver Art Gallery retrospective of EJ Hughes (2002), a career survey of works by Takao Tanabe (2005), and “Gordon Smith: The Black Paintings” (2018), a collaboration between Vancouver Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria that later toured the country. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2008, and received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. (press release)