Canada’s National Gallery abruptly lays off four senior staff, including chief curator and Indigenous art curator

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Just days after conferring the prestigious Sobey Art Award on 16 November, the National Gallery of Canada laid off four senior staffers, the Globe and Mail reported.

Among the high-level departures announced on 18 November are chief curator Kitty Scott—the first woman to hold the position on a permanent basis—and Indigenous art curator Greg A. Hill, who had worked at the museum for more than 20 years. Also let go were veteran director of conservation and technical research Stephen Gritt, as well as senior manager of communications Denise Siele, a recent hire.

The Globe and Mail cited an internal memo to staff from interim director and chief executive Angela Cassie, who had overseen the Sobey presentation earlier in the week. “The work-force changes are the result of numerous factors and were made to better align the gallery’s leadership team with the organisation’s new strategic plan,” Cassie’s statement read. “For privacy reasons, the gallery is not at liberty to discuss details of these departures.”

Scott was in her second stint at the National Gallery. She was appointed by departed director Sasha Suda in 2020 after serving there from 2000 to 2006, during which time she brought one of Louise Bourgeois’s celebrated Maman spider sculptures to Ottawa. Scott also worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and London’s Serpentine Galleries, among other institutions. (Suda, who spent some three years in Ottawa after serving as curator of European art at the AGO, is now director at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)

Hill, who confirmed his exit with an Instagram post, is a Kanyen’kehaka member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and is best known for curating retrospective exhibitions for Indigenous artists in Canada, such as Norval Morrisseau, Carl Beam and Alex Janvier. In the post, he added, “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.”

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