Ottawa

Gallery CEO remains silent over aborted Chagall sale

National Gallery of Canada director and CEO Marc Mayer had little to tell reporters Wednesday when asked about last week's decision to cancel the sale of a painting by Marc Chagall.

Marc Mayer made 1st public appearance since decision to cancel auction of masterpiece

National Gallery of Canada director and CEO Marc Mayer had little to say Wednesday when asked about the Marc Chagall painting. (CBC News)

It's the controversy that just won't go away, no matter how much the National Gallery of Canada and its director, Marc Mayer, might wish it would. 

Reporters attending a news conference about a photo exhibit Wednesday were instructed by gallery staff not to ask questions about the gallery's aborted attempt to unload a Marc Chagall masterpiece and acquire another painting by Jacques-Louis David, but the questions came nevertheless.

It was Mayer's first public appearance since last Thursday, when the gallery's board of trustees reversed its decision to auction off Chagall's La Tour Eiffel at Christie's later this month, following three weeks of public outcry. 

Critics had charged the sale, which was expected to earn the gallery between $6 million and $9 million US, and the decision-making process that led to it, lacked transparency.
La Tour Eiffel by Marc Chagall was expected to fetch between $6 million and $9 million US at auction. (National Gallery of Canada/Christie's)

Nothing to add
The National Gallery was hoping to acquire Saint Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment by Jacques-Louis David. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

In an open letter on April 16 Mayer vigorously defended the decision, and vowed the sale would proceed whether the gallery was able to acquire the David piece or not.

Asked Wednesday when the Chagall would be returned by Christie's to the gallery, and how much cancelling the auction could cost, Mayer had very little to say.

"We don't have anything to add that we haven't said already," Mayer said. "I'd rather wait until I have something to answer your questions." 

In French, Mayer said those answers could come within a couple days.

Mayer bristled when asked about his ongoing reticence.

"That is exactly how I should do my job. I am a professional, and when I have the information to give you, I will give it to you."

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