National Gallery Heads Should Roll Over Chagall Fiasco

In a lot of businesses when a mistake is made that has costs the company as much as seven figures in losses, somebody gets a footprint on their behind with the boot in the general direction of the door.

A million dollars, if that is the correct figure, to pay Christie’s auction house for reneging on a deal to sell a National Gallery of Canada Chagall is a big screw-up. Now such a term, screw-up, may not be in the lexicon of the high and mighty tall foreheads at the gallery. It is much too coarse a word. But screw-up it is.

Very generously, a private donor has chipped in the cost of the penalty for the National Gallery which failed to uphold its deal to Christie’s. What a waste. A million dollars buys some pretty fair art or a lot of food at the Food Bank or lots of beds at the Sally Ann mission.

Instead it is being used to fill Christie’s bank account for being denied the opportunity to make a profit from the Chagall.

What a mess. What a bailout. And through all this, gallery director discovered it was unprofessional to discuss something he doesn’t know about. Is it not the job of the director to know exactly what is occurring in his gallery, especially on a file as important as this? Why if he knew (no doubt he did), he would not have to repeatedly deny interviews with the media at a publicly funded institution because he didn’t know anything, he said. A NCG spokesman would not have had to use the words “in due course” as to when information would come down from on high about what was going on with the Chagall. Arrogant. Public servants should keep their bosses, the public, informed.

Marc Mayer, the gallery director, has become the Sgt Schultz of the art world. “I see nothing, nothing.”



But a million dollars is a million dollars. Still big money these days. And now the gallery has had to bail itself out of this issue embarrassingly by way of a donor. At least the public isn’t left holding the bag.

So someone is responsible. And that person (or persons) should be told to remove their canapes and white wine out of the publicly funded NGC lunch room and take them (and themselves) out the door. Then maybe they can discover how difficult it is to make $1 million outside the rarefied air of the gallery.

A lost million bucks is a good reason to be fired. Such a dismissal would be quite a wake-up call for the snobs at the gallery who are too important to talk to the people who foot the bills.

Heads should roll.


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