National Gallery lays off 5 curators

In a move that eliminates 20 per cent of its curatorial staff, the National Gallery of Canada has let go five curators as part of cost-cutting measures.

More cuts expected at other Ottawa-area museums

The National Gallery of Canada is eliminating about 20 per cent of its curatorial positions. (CBC)

Five curators at the National Gallery of Canada are losing their jobs as part of cost-cutting measures, but the museum's CEO says it will be hiring again around the end of the year.

The affected curators include Graham Larkin, the curator of European art, and Denise Leclerc, the curator of modern Canadian art, a period that covers from the end of the Second World War to the 1990s.

The assistant curator for prints and drawings, the assistant curator of contemporary art, and a curatorial assistant in Canadian art were also informed Wednesday their jobs were being eliminated.

The National Gallery has two dozen curators in all, making these most recent layoffs significant.

Charles Hill, the curator of Canadian art and the union representative for the curators at the gallery, said the job losses are a blow to the gallery.

"The loss of the knowledge that the curators hold, their history of the institution and of course the projects they were already active in," Hill said. "We are going to have to figure out how we are going to pick up the pieces and who is going to cover for the knowledge areas we have lost."
Charles Hill said the layoffs are a loss for the National Gallery. (CBC)

National Gallery CEO Marc Mayer said the institution had a structural deficit of $400,000 that the job cuts will eliminate. They're part of a wider restructuring that will see the museum reduce from seven curatorial departments to five, he said.

"We still have the largest group of curators working at any museum in Canada, so we feel pretty comfortable," Mayer said. "Really we've cleared up a lot of awkwardness in overstaffing in one area and understaffing in another, and we need to make sure that the workload that we actually have, that we have the right amount of people for it."

Last year, financial shortfalls led the National Art Gallery to eliminate several art education programs aimed at children, teenagers and seniors, eliminating 27 positions in the process.

A number of people at the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada said they are expecting more layoffs to be announced next week at the Museum of Civilization, and possibly other national museums in the National Capital Region.

But Mayer said the National Gallery will actually begin hiring again in about six months, adding another junior curator to its Canadian department.