Skip to content

May we suggest

News / November 15, 2017

Major Canadian Collector Accused of Sexual Harassment

French-language newspaper La Presse publishes major exposé with multiple allegations against François Odermatt
Montreal-based collector François Odermatt at the opening the Takashi Murakami exhibition at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo in November 2017. Odermatt is a Murakami collector and a sponsor of the exhibition. Photo: Facebook. Montreal-based collector François Odermatt at the opening the Takashi Murakami exhibition at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo in November 2017. Odermatt is a Murakami collector and a sponsor of the exhibition. Photo: Facebook.

Montreal-based collector François Odermatt is the subject of an extensive exposé in today’s La Presse newspaper.

The report details several allegations of sexual harassment and assault against artists, collectors and art-gallery workers, with Odermatt consistently denying any criminal activity.

Odermatt, the extensive report by journalist Éric Clément notes, has a collecting roster that has attracted international attention. His commissioning of a 100-foot painting by Murakami put him at number 66 in Artnet’s 2016 list of the world’s top art collectors. (Odermatt is also currently listed as an exhibition sponsor for Murakami’s recently opened Albright-Knox exhibition “The Deep End of the Universe.”)

La Presse spoke with a dozen individuals—men and women—who have confirmed Odermatt’s patterns of sexual aggression.

Among them was artist Natalie Reis. Reis says she was assaulted by Odermatt at the empty studio of artist Marc Séguin in Montreal’s Arsenal arts complex in 2013. She reported the matter to police, who never laid charges. (Séguin says he wasn’t aware of the assault initially, and since learning of it has severed ties with Odermatt, wanting to support Reis’s account.)

Reis later created an art installation about Odermatt’s 2013 assault on her and displayed it in April 2017 at the Papier art fair in Montreal. The art fair that year took place at the Arsenal as well—the site of the initial assault.

Though Reis did not name Odermatt directly in her 2017 art installation, some viewers may have surmised it was him. One anonymous source in the La Presse story—a gallerist—states that Odermatt has been talked about for years in Montreal art circles, and that “we notified our employees to never find themselves alone in his presence.”

In the La Presse report, collector Sandra Schlemm and artist Éliane Excoffier both allege that Odermatt touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.

Excoffier says Odermatt put his hand down her pants at a social event. When Excoffier pushed him away, he said “But why? You don’t like me, beautiful?”

Schlemm says Odermatt kissed her in an erotic fashion after a memorial service for producer Micheline Charest in 2004. “Don’t do that!” Schlemm recalls saying. She says Odermatt’s response was to laugh and say “Relax!”

The La Presse report details other allegations as well. Arts worker Natalie Vansier alleges that Odermatt made visiting artists deeply uncomfortable when he showed videos of him receiving a blow job.

Odermatt’s comment to La Presse, repeatedly, was “Je ne me souviens pas de ça” (“I don’t remember that”) and “Je suis quelqu’un de super amical et chaleureux avec les gens.” (“I am someone who is very friendly and warm towards people.”) He says that Reis’s police filing was the only formal investigation into his behaviour to date.

The La Presse article concludes with Odermatt’s comment “I have enough success with women in general. I don’t need to do that.”

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. A graduate of NSCAD University and McGill University, she has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.