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Johan Lundh and Aileen Burns will join Remai Modern later this year as co-executive director and CEO.

Louis Lim/Remai Modern

Remai Modern, the Saskatoon gallery that last year lost its director amid controversy, will be led by a two-person team. Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh will join the Remai later this year as co-executive directors and CEOs.

“We have followed the museum’s development and opening program closely and have been impressed with its vision and ambition,” the Canadian/Swedish couple said in a statement released by the museum on Wednesday. “We identify strongly with the artist-centred spirit of Remai Modern, the commitment to reimagining Modernisms, and dynamic collections development. We look forward to furthering its impacts, achievements and reputation.”

The couple have worked together for years, curating more than 50 exhibitions and projects around the world over the past decade, and have edited and co-edited a number of books.

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Most recently they have been co-directors/chief curators at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre in New Zealand. The New Plymouth gallery exhibits contemporary art in a former heritage cinema and is home to the collection of the modernist filmmaker and kinetic artist Len Lye.

Prior to that, Burns and Lundh were co-directors of the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, and before that, at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. There, they organized the first Curatorial Intensive in Europe with the group Independent Curators International.

“Aileen and Johan are innovators with a growing reputation for their unique and collaborative approach to museum management,” Doug Matheson, Remai Modern’s board chairman, said in Wednesday’s statement. “In addition to their respected work as curators, they bring valuable strategic, financial, human resources and fundraising background to the organization.”

Burns, who is from Toronto, earned her undergraduate degree in Art History and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto before doing her graduate degree at Columbia University in New York. Lundh is a Swedish curator, writer and translator who was educated at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm.

The plan is for the couple to start in midsummer, taking over from interim executive director and chief executive officer Lynn McMaster.

Remai Modern, a 130,000-square-foot gallery designed by KPMB Architects, opened in October, 2017, replacing the city’s former Mendel Gallery. Its founding executive director and CEO Gregory Burke – previously director of Toronto’s Power Plant – announced his surprise resignation from the Remai in December, 2018, after landing a job running the Auckland Art Gallery in his native New Zealand. But he left the Remai abruptly and earlier than expected, after media reports of a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission complaint against him by a former employee of the Mendel. Burke then withdrew from the Auckland job. McMaster was brought in as interim chair in April, 2019.

“There’s a sensitivity about considering what are going to need to be the strengths for who is going to take this job moving forward,” McMaster told The Globe and Mail in an interview earlier this year.

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“I think it’s an opportunity for someone who’s really going to relish the experience of putting an authentic voice to this place and space,” she added.

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