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Kirsten Paisley in front of Colin McCahon’s Victory over Death 2, 1970. Photo: Rohan Thomson.
Kirsten Paisley in front of Colin McCahon’s Victory over Death 2, 1970. Photo: Rohan Thomson.

Kirsten Paisley Named Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Kirsten Paisley will serve as the next director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in New Zealand, beginning May 1. Gregory Burke, the former director and CEO of Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada, was originally tapped for the position, but he withdrew his application last month after an allegation of workplace harassment surfaced.

According to the New Zealand Herald, the accuser, an unidentified former female coworker, claims the harassment took place at Remai Modern in 2013, when it was still operating as the Mendel Art Gallery. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is investigating the allegation.

Explaining his decision to bow out of the position, Burke said: “I am concerned that the attention caused by this allegation has created a distraction for the gallery’s board and staff and, out of respect for them and the institution, I believe that this is the right thing to do.” He also provided Artforum with the following statement in response to the controversy: “I am aware of an unproven allegation against me that dates back to 2013 and was filed in 2016. I continue to cooperate fully and engage actively in the process. I am eager to clear any speculation of wrongdoing since the allegation has been incorrectly characterized in media reports. However, given the sensitivities involved, I am unable to speak publicly on the matter until the process has concluded.”

Following an international search, the Auckland Art Gallery selected Paisley to head the institution. She most recently served as deputy director at the National Gallery of Australia, which houses a collection of 150,000 artworks. Under her leadership, the National Gallery saw a 10 percent increase in visitors, created a children’s gallery, launched a new contemporary art commissioning program, and established a visitor experience team.

Commenting on her new role, Paisley said: “I am looking forward to taking the gallery forward into a new phase of exceptional exhibition and public programming, growing our audiences and the depth and quality of engagement, and providing even more opportunities for artists to thrive and shine. Together, we will create the platform for relevant, energetic, cultural, and social discourse for Auckland, characterized by diversity, global connectivity and a spirit of curiosity and, importantly, good fun.”

[UPDATE:] A quote provided to Artforum by Gregory Burke has been added to the article.