News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Nathalie Bondil. Photo: Miguel Legault/Flickr.
Nathalie Bondil. Photo: Miguel Legault/Flickr.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Ex-Director Sues Board of Trustees

Alleging an “orchestrated” attempt to destroy her reputation, ousted director and chief curator Nathalie Bondil is suing the board of directors of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (MMFA) for $1.5 million. Bondil’s suit filed in Superior Court this past Friday, claims $750,000 for moral damages and $750,000 for punitive damages.

The board controversially fired Bondil in July, with board chair Michel de la Chenelière citing Bondil’s failure to address a “toxic” work environment. Bondil, who had worked at the museum for more than two decades and who is widely credited with having raised the institution’s international profile, claimed she was fired because she did not support de la Chenelière’s choice to head the curatorial division, Mary-Dailey Desmarais, whose family are influential MMFA donors.

De la Chenelière cited an independent report as the source of the claims that led to Bondil’s firing, which proved highly divisive, with hundreds of museum members asking for a “revocation of  [de la Chenelière’s] mandate,” on the one hand, and more than 100 current former staff members signing a letter supporting the firing on the other.

Bondil’s suit alleges that the board “orchestrated, led and continues to lead an intentional campaign of defamation and destruction of her reputation with the sole goal of hiding the real reason that pushed it to fire her, which is her refusal to publicly endorse the irregular process that led to the hiring of the director of the curatorial division of the museum.”

On the same day the suit was filed, de la Chenelière announced that he would not be seeking reappointment as board chair at the general meeting scheduled to take place on September 29. He will remain a member of the board, with Pierre Bourgie, a close confederate, replacing him as chair and serving as acting director.

“[T]he museum crisis is behind us,” Bourgie told the Montreal Gazette in an interview.

The board is additionally awaiting results of an audit that was opened by Quebec culture minister Nathalie Roy, who asked the museum to return a $7.5 million subsidy in the wake of Bondil’s dismissal. The results of the audit were delivered to Roy last week; she is expected to announce any forthcoming actions within the next few weeks.