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News / March 6, 2019

Remai Modern CEO Under Investigation by Human Rights Commission: CBC

The CBC is reporting that the investigation is related to a harassment complaint filed by a former female co-worker. It’s the latest in a series of concerning reports about the Remai.
Exterior of the Remai Modern as seen from the Meewasin Valley Trail on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River. Photo: Adrien Williams. Exterior of the Remai Modern as seen from the Meewasin Valley Trail on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River. Photo: Adrien Williams.

CBC Saskatoon is reporting that Gregory Burke, CEO of Remai Modern, “is under investigation by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission for alleged workplace harassment dating back to his time at Mendel Art Gallery.”

(The Remai Modern was formerly known as the Mendel Art Gallery. It announced a name change in 2014 as part of a move to a new, larger facility that had the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation as its main private donor.)

The new CBC report is based on a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission document “obtained by CBC News [that] does not detail the specifics of the allegation,” says the article.

CBC News is not identifying the woman who filed the complaint, and notes her “allegation has not been proven in court.”

When contacted for comment today via email, a Remai Modern spokesperson told Canadian Art that “we don’t comment on human resources matters.”

The Remai spokesperson also directed Canadian Art to a new strategic plan that includes creation of a full-time, permanent human resources director at the museum.

“Remai Modern is committed to an environment that is welcoming to everyone who visits and works here,” the spokesperson wrote. “We will foster accountability at all levels of the organization and build a high-performing culture that supports, empowers, grows and rewards our people.”

City Funding Concerns and a Departed Chief Curator

The March 5 CBC report on the Human Rights Commission investigation is by Saskatoon City Hall reporter Guy Quenneville.

The Remai Modern is a major project and service line of the City of Saskatoon. (The two other service lines in the City budget are the SaskTel Centre sports complex and the TCU Place convention centre.)

The City provided roughly $30-million to build the Remai Modern—the largest single chunk of funding towards that. The City also commits millions in funding annually towards Remai Modern operations.

The CBC’s report of a Human Rights Commission investigation on Burke is one of the latest in a concerning series of news about the state of the Remai Modern.

Today, for instance, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported that chief curator Sandra Guimarães had departed the Remai in January 2019 after three and a half years on the job. Guimarães had spent 11 years at her previous post at the Serralves Museum in Porto. No response to questions was provided by the Remai to Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reporter Phil Tank.

On February 21, the CBC reported a shakeup was coming on the Remai Modern board. It also reported the outgoing Remai board chair had acknowledged undisclosed workplace “concerns” in an email to staff. On February 25, the Star-Phoenix reported that some board members had lodged allegations of political interference on the part of the city. By February 28, both the CBC and the Star-Phoenix confirmed that half the board was departing, some in protest.

Burke Due to Lead Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Soon

In December 2018, it was announced that Gregory Burke had been hired as director of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, in his homeland of New Zealand. It is the largest art institution in New Zealand.

In initial reports about the new appointment, Burke’s last day at the Remai Modern was scheduled to be March 15, 2019. Burke’s first day at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is slated to be sometime in April.

Now, the New Zealand art scene is reacting to news of the latest Human Rights Commission investigation news as well.

In an article published today, New Zealand’s Newshub reported comment from Chris Brooks, CEO of Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) and acting director of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

The Auckland administrator said he was aware of the Human Rights Commission investigation of Burke. Brooks added: “However, out of consideration for privacy and any due process that may follow, RFA will not – as in all cases of this type – be making any further statement.”

Canadian Art has also requested comment from the Auckland Art Gallery, but none was received by press time.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.