Second Indigenous Art Curator Leaves Art Gallery of Ontario as Scrutiny Continues - The World News

Second Indigenous Art Curator Leaves Art Gallery of Ontario as Scrutiny Continues

A second Indigenous art curator has departed Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, which last year faced scrutiny after another curator in the Indigenous and Canadian Art department left, reportedly after tension over her views on Palestine.

On Thursday, the Globe and Mail reported that Taqralik Partridge was no longer associate curator of Indigenous art, a position she had held for less than two years. A museum spokesperson told the Canadian publication that Partridge, a poet and performer, left to “focus on her art practice.” It is still not clear when Partridge left, but the spokesperson said staff was informed of her departure earlier this month.

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Wanda Nanibush is the curator of Canadian and Indigenous Art for the Art Gallery of Ontario. 
 The AGO opens its own broad-ranging Toronto Art History survey, Tributes and Tributaries.        (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

“Taqralik Partridge’s curatorial work supporting the care, acquisition, research, interpretation and exhibition of Inuit art from all periods has been invaluable to the AGO,” Stephan Jost, the museum’s director, said in a statement to the Globe and Mail.

Partridge’s departure came less than two months after Wanda Nanibush, a higher-ranking curator of Indigenous art at the museum, left the AGO after seven years. The institution said her departure was done by “mutual decision.”

The Globe and Mail previously reported that Nanibush’s departure may have been in part fueled by her pro-Palestinian views voiced on social media. The Israel Museum and Arts, Canada sent a letter to museum leadership that denounced Nanibush’s “inflammatory, inaccurate rants against Israel,” but a source within the AGO told the Globe and Mail that the missive did not spur Nanibush, who in 2016 wrote an essay about viewing Palestine from what she called an “Indigenous perspective,” to leave.

A flurry of open letters about Nanibush’s departure has followed. The most recent of them, by the Toronto-based Indigenous Curatorial Collective, calls on the AGO to “release Nanibush from any legal obligations preventing her from speaking publicly about her tenure and dismissal, about how she sees what happened and why.”

Nanibush’s departure makes the AGO the third major institution to lose a star Indigenous art curator in the past three years.

In 2022, Sandra Benites left the Museu de Arte de São Paulo after the museum was accused of having censored a show she was organizing; she had become the first-ever Indigenous curator to work at a Brazilian museum when she was hired three years earlier. Later in 2022, the National Gallery of Canada abruptly laid off four curators, including Greg Hill, who had worked there for 22 years and was the first Indigenous curator ever to work there.

By the time Partridge was hired by the AGO in 2022, she had already organized the museum’s 2018 exhibition “Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak.” In its announcement of her hire, Julian Cox, the AGO’s deputy director and chief curator, praised her newly created position for its ability to “amplify the urgency and global relevance of Inuit art, here and internationally.”

An AGO spokesperson did not immediately respond to ARTnews’s request for comment.

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