Friday, July 23, 2010

AGO "retires" scholar, not his "choice"

By Wendy Gillis, Toronto Star, July 23, 2010
A highly respected curator and the second-highest paid employee of the Art Gallery of Ontario has been forced into early retirement, causing an uproar in the Canadian art community and leaving many speculating about the reason.

“I am retiring, and I can confirm that the timing is not of my choice,” said Dennis Reid, when reached at his home Thursday. He refused to comment on why he was told to leave his position as chief curator of research...
According to the province’s so-called sunshine list, Reid was paid $233,841.70 in 2009 — the second-highest salary at the AGO, after (Matthew) Teitelbaum, whose total compensation was $1,070,000 after a bonus.
There seems, to the untrained "eye," to be something of a discrepancy in the distrubution of resources in these figures. With 23 others already having been eliminated from the payroll at the AGO, how is it that Mr. Teitelbaum still receives over a million dollars in compensation? Where are the people on the AGO board of directors? Why are questions not being asked about the distribution of what perhaps meagre financial resources are being deployed in this organization?
As one who has marvelled at both the collections and the architectural setting of, especially the new addition to the AGO, perhaps it is time for the gallery, and the province to rethink the fiscal foundations of the AGO going forward. This institution is a showcase in Ontario, for the people of Canada and for visitors from around the world, housing and displaying collections of the work of artists from across the country. That would not have happened without people of the calibre of Mr. Reid, who also teaches at the University of Toronto, and is considered an outstanding scholar in the field of Canadian Art History.
While "age" has not been mentioned, yet, in the story, one also has to hope that that is not a factor. That would provide critics of the move with another legitimate target for their opposition.
In Canada, we must guard against reducing everything, and especially one of our national collections of art, to money, we have done to pretty much every other aspect of our national life. When that happens, as Lionel Tiger argues in The Manufacture of Evil, all emotions are removed from consideration, and that leaves all of us bereft of the life that art continues to give to all who cast their eye, ear and heart upon the canvas, or the musical score, or the stage of dance and theatre. And when that happens, we are all made more "poor" in the process.

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