Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Nathalie Bondil, director and chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Valerian Mazataud/The Globe and Mail

Nathalie Bondil, the former director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, says she was never shown the report that alleged there were unacceptable working conditions at the popular public institution she had led since 2007. Ms. Bondil doubled the museum’s floor space, and attendance had tripled, but this week, the museum’s board of directors abruptly terminated her contract a year early.

After the museum’s union complained about a toxic workplace, the board had hired the Montreal human resources consultancy Le Cabinet RH Inc. to undertake an independent investigation. Explaining Ms. Bondil’s sudden departure, board chair Michel de la Chenelière has called the resulting report “very bad,” saying it uncovered psychological harassment and poor relations among Ms. Bondil and her curators. But Ms. Bondil said in an interview on Thursday that she never saw the full report, although she was implementing its four recommendations, including working with a problem employee.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday, Quebec Culture Minister Nathalie Roy said she is commissioning an independent report to look into the museum’s governance and clarify the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors and the director.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Bondil said the first difficulties arose during a stressful period when the museum was preparing its much delayed One World galleries, a suite devoted to non-Western art and archaeological objects that opened in November, 2019. One person, who she declined to name, was driving installers too hard, she said.

“I never had complaints against me [about] psychological harassment,” she said. “It’s a big institution.”

In an interview earlier this week, Mr. de la Chenelière said the report uncovered problems that required the board to act without delay, but that Ms. Bondil was in denial and proved inflexible as discussions continued. The former director, on the other hand, says the real stumbling block became the way in which the board went about hiring a new head of the curatorial division, another of the report’s key recommendations.

Ms. Bondil, who held the position of both general director and chief curator, said she agreed in principle that she needed a curatorial manager to share the load in the rapidly expanding museum. She disagreed, however, with the board’s choice for the position, curator of international modern and contemporary art Mary-Dailey Desmarais. Although she had hired Ms. Desmarais in 2014 and promoted her, she said she did not feel the curator had sufficient experience for the post. She said that when the board insisted on Ms. Desmarais, she acquiesced, but would not lend her name to a press statement saying the process was rigorous and unanimous.

Ms. Bondil dismissed Quebec media reports pitting the two women against each other or speculating that the board favours Ms. Desmarais because of her wealthy family connections – she is married to Paul Desmarais III.

“I’m the one who hired her. She’s a lovely person and a very good curator. It’s not a contest between me and Mary-Dailey Desmarais,” Ms. Bondil said.

The museum responded to the controversy over Ms. Desmarais’ appointment as head of curatorial on Wednesday by issuing a statement of support signed by all its curators, praising “her openness to collaborate, her intelligence, her ability to listen and learn quickly, her discretion, her modesty, her integrity and the quality of her scholarly publications.”

Story continues below advertisement


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story referred to a report in the Art Newspaper that said a collaboration between the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris had been cancelled. The MMFA says the exhibition is going ahead.
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies