Appointment controversial, allegations of harassment, reckoning : the saga of the dismissal of the director general of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, this week, has lifted the veil on a secret world around which revolves one of the largest business families of quebec. In the scenes of banquet of funding in long dress and tuxedo, the institution is torn apart by games of influence and ego.
Nathalie Bondil has already been nominated to lead the Museum of the Louvre, in Paris. Instead, she has chosen to make his career in Montreal.
Two decades at the Museum of fine arts (MMFA), including over ten years as director general.
Nathalie Bondil, photographed last Tuesday in Montreal. She was fired in the context of a conflict with the chairman of the board, Michel de la Chenelière (cut away view), which can be seen here on the occasion of a ball of funding for the MMFA.
Today, this knight of the French Legion of honour finds himself without employment, after the chairman of the Board of directors of the Museum, Michel de la Chenelière, has announced his dismissal by issuing a press release on Monday. Her cell number has been disabled.
However, not later than the 26th of June, it was in discussions with the chair of the board for a renewal of contract for three years.
How a woman with such an international reputation have been dismissed as hasty and cavalier, at least in appearance ?
“A little game “
The former minister Monique Jérôme-Forget is ” outraged “. President of the board of directors of the McCord Museum in Montreal, she has experience in governance of cultural institutions
“It is a small game that is played is absolutely not professional “, she launched Tuesday at the microphone of Caroline St-Hilaire, at QUB radio.
“[Ms. Bondil] is a woman for whom I have the greatest admiration, because it brought the museum of Fine arts to such a level that today it is seen as a great museum in the world, ” she said.
In the last few days, our Office of investigation has obtained several testimonies and consulted many documents that allow us to better understand what really happened.
“Why this new position ? “
Nobody doubted that the appointment of Mary-Dailey Desmarais, head of conservation at the MUSEUM, announced on July 6, was hiding a real drama behind the scenes.
This position did not previously exist, the team of curators under the leadership of the director-general and chief curator, in this case Ms. Bondil.
Pascale Chassé, director of communications for the museum, sees it coming to the game. She knows that we need to justify publicly the new organization chart.
“It will be necessary to provide an answer to the question : why this new position has been created ? “she wrote by e-mail to Nathalie Bondil, the 27th June, when two women are preparing the drafting of the press release announcing the appointment.
Stanford and Yale
Ms. Desmarais, 39 years old, is described as a bright young woman and ambitious. She has studied in the United States, first at Stanford University, before getting in 2015, a phd in art history from the prestigious Yale University.
She is married since 2008, Paul Desmarais III, small son of the late Paul Desmarais, the former head of Power Corporation.
The couple is established in 2015 in Westmount, after having purchased for$ 4.8 M the house of the former prime minister, Brian Mulroney.
Nathalie Bondil is the patron saint of Mary-Dailey Desmarais, for the past six years at the MMFA, and she recognizes a lot of talent. However, the words chosen by the director-general to announce this appointment in the press release of the Museum are marked by reserve.
“I will bring my full support to Mary-Dailey for the MMFA continues to grow “, says she to say – – – after several lines that are rather on the long-term strategic vision of the institution and its artistic programming.
This statement, it is the tree that hides the forest. How Nathalie Bondil welcomes publicly the appointment of Ms. Desmarais is at the heart of discussions that she has at the same time with Michel de la Chenelière for the renewal of its own contract. The process began on 26 June, according to e-mails that we have consulted.
Nathalie Bondil is not in agreement with Michel de la Chenelière for that Mary-Dailey Desmarais be appointed as director of conservation. She believes that she lacks experience in personnel management, and suggests that a position of chief curator assistant would be more appropriate.
Moreover, Ms. Desmarais was ranked fourth in the evaluation grid of the four candidates to lead the conservation.
On the 27th of June, in the late morning, M. de la Chenelière application to Nathalie Bondil to see the text of the announcement to employees and a press release to mark the appointment of Ms. Desmarais. The exchanges become more tense.
“Count on me : I will – as already said it to Mary for the employees – This will be a message that is obviously positive and constructive in the spirit of our exchanges. “, she replies.
“Feel free to write to me what you want, or give me your points – if you prefer to control the message “, she adds.
In spite of their differences of opinions, Michel de la Chenelière, invites the director-general to a video-conference on 2 July to discuss the renewal of his contract. Nathalie Bondil still refuses to endorse publicly the process of appointment of Mary-Daily Desmarais.
From bad to worse
It ships in the hours following a formal letter to Mr. de la Chenelière and Alix d’anglejan-Chatillon, secretary of the board.
“At our last meeting of June 26, I had been assured of the renewal of my contract and you were in agreement that this item should be settled quickly in July “, is concerned about it.
“During our conversation this morning, I was surprised to learn that you had no idea of the future or got the green light, or a clear mandate about this,” adds the director, expressing the need to be “badly informed” about its future.
“It is very difficult to consider discussing and entering into an agreement between you and the Museum prior to your departure on holiday on the 18th [July] “, replied Michel de la Chenelière in the evening.
The next day, he proposes another meeting on 6 July, the day that he will teach him that his mandate would end this summer. But this time, it will not be a virtual meeting.
“I totally understand your desire, as you expressed in your word yesterday, wanting to be urgently filled in on your future. It is important, I know, and believe me, I do all my possible to accommodate the situation by consulting the Board of directors. […]
I suggest a meeting in person, you and me, rather than Zoom.
In your garden ? In my garden ? “
Once great friends ” as the two fingers of the hand “, according to someone who knows them well, Michel de la Chenelière, and Nathalie Bondil come to consume their divorce professional.
Once the dispute aired in the media, Michel de la Chenelière proposes to him on Friday, July 10, to stay until the end of his term in 2021, ” in order to promote a transition of functions, harmonious, orderly and respectful “, according to the draft agreement submitted to him / her.
Nathalie Bondil would occupy a role watered down where it must commit to meet with the president of the Council on a monthly basis, or more regularly at the request of the latter “
She refuses and is officially terminated on the following Monday morning.
A ball high-color
Each fall, the annual grand ball of funding for the MMFA, the gratin political, artistic and business montreal is putting on its 36 and scrolls to one of the evenings the most glamorous of the year.
The annual ball of funding for the museum is still taking place in a sumptuous setting. The gratin is scrolled in a tux and long dress.
They were 1000 wealthy donors, artists and politicians, on the 2nd of November last, to amass record profits of$ 1.6 Million, $ 100,000 more than the previous year, which had also set a record.
The champagne is fresh, the decor sumptuous. This is the watch Cirque du Soleil creative who provides art direction.
Here we see Julie Katerine Turcotte with an orange robe, who organized the special events at the MMFA.
In the official photos, we can see, among others, the ceo of Cirque, Daniel Lamarre, and the minister of Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon. One of the shots shows the mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, who poses in a black evening dress to the sides of the essential Michel de la Chenelière.
The last seat on the board of the MMFA since 2011 and chair since April of 2019. He was replaced as lieutenant of the empire Desmarais, Jacques Parisien, who is president of Power Communications.
The minister of Culture, Nathalie Roy, and DG, Nathalie Bondil.
Publishing and philanthropy
Mr. de la Chenelière has acquired a high reputation and made a fortune in the field of books. It is he who has founded the publishing house that bears his name, specializing in textbooks French, and sold to Transcontinental in 2006.
There are more awards and honours received over the years by one who is particular recipient of the national Order of Quebec and chevalier of the Ordre des arts et des lettres of the French Republic. At the MMFA, a workshop of art therapy even bears his name.
Described as a man of affable and trade pleasant, Michel de la Chenelière is also a great lover of art He has made donations totaling$ 5 Million to the museum in 2011 and 2015.
“Since 2010, this exceptional patron has enabled the MMFA to amplify its educational programs and community relations and the promotion of innovative projects “, stated the nominating committee of the Board of the MMFA in nominating him for president last year.
Who chairs this committee ? Another loyal lieutenant of the Desmarais family, the ex-senator Serge Joyal. This renowned art collector and donor to the MUSEUM, of which he is himself a director, manages the art collection of Power Corporation.
Last December, when he received the insignia of commander of the Legion d’honneur of the French Republic, he spoke of Jacqueline Desmarais as his ” great friend “.
Jacqueline Desmarais, who passed away in 2018, was the wife of feu Paul Desmarais, who has built Power Corp. After the death of her husband, it is she who has kept the family together.
The couple of billionaires is part of the “great patrons” of the museum, a title reserved to those who have contributed $ 1 million and more over the years.
Their children have continued the tradition of supporting the middle of the beaux-arts. One of their two sons, Paul Jr, has given between $ 25,000 and $ 50,000 during the last annual fundraising campaign of the MMFA.
He is the father of Paul III, first vice president at Power Corp since 2017 and husband of Mary Dailey-Desmarais, the new head of conservation at the museum.
The other son of the couple, Paul and Jacqueline Desmarais, André, also in the patronage of the museum, ” even more than Paul Jr and [his wife] Helen “, according to a source who knows very well the family.
But rather than support one of the members of their powerful family in this saga, Andrew and his wife, France Chrétien Desmarais, have rather gone out in the daily Press to take a clear position in favor of Nathalie Bondil, and express their fears on the governance of the museum.
“When one is president or member of the Board of directors, it is not there to manage the museum,” has launched the France Chrétien Desmarais.
In the Desmarais family, this is not harmony. “The two sisters-in-law (France and Helena) did not like, for a long time,” said a source who wanted to remain anonymous, large-regular evenings of the museum.
Exposure compromised ?
If André and France Chrétien Desmarais, and worry for the future of MBAM, is that Nathalie Bondil is the one who was to lead the establishment of a whole new wing dedicated to the renowned québécois painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, whose opening has been announced for 2023.
A great collector, who manages the art collection of Power Corporation, the ex-senator Serge Joyal is also one of the founders of the Foundation, Jean-Paul Riopelle. The organization, which we see here on the web site, prepares a special wing of the MUSEUM, which will celebrate 100 years of the painter’s birth in 2023.
This project of$ 20 Million, should see the light of day thanks to the fondation Jean-Paul Riopelle, two of the six founders and patrons are none other than André Desmarais and Serge Joyal.
This foundation is directed by Manon Gauthier, the former chief of cabinet of the minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, which launched on Thursday an attack thinly veiled against the board of the Museum.
“As the largest funder of the museum, at the rate of$ 16 Million per year, the government of Quebec considers itself entitled to ask questions and get answers about the management and governance of the museum and its Board of directors “, she said, launching an independent investigation on the matter.
The MUSEUM has reopened its doors to visitors on June 6, after a break forced due to the COVID-19. The mask is mandatory and reservations are required to be able to walk in the only exhibition available to the public for the time, Paris in the time of post-impressionism.
The Museum of fine arts of Montreal has re-opened its doors on the 6th of June last, after the confinement imposed by the COVID-19. It can be at this time there admire an exhibit featuring the French painter Paul Signac.
But several of its employees, including management, are still working at a distance. It was the case of Nathalie Bondil and his subordinates. And it may be a good thing, if one relies on the reasons officially given for the dismissal of Nathalie Bondil.
In announcing the dismissal, Michel de la Chenelière has described a work environment that seems to have been terrible for the last several months. A report from an external firm would be qualified even the atmosphere of ” toxic “.
“Since last year, the Museum has seen many departures of key employees and has been made aware of evidence troubling of employees reporting an apparent deterioration of the work climate “, one can read in the press release to announce the departure of the director-general.
Ms. Bondil is not personally covered by any allegation of harassment. However, “in recent months, attempts many times repeated by the board of directors to find a solution to this situation that had become intolerable faced the intransigence of Ms. Bondil and its denial of several conclusions, yet, without the call of the report,” one can read.
Other signs of tearing between the rich, the great patron of the arts and a multi-millionaire Pierre Bourgie has endorsed this version in an open letter published yesterday in The Press.
Calm down the game
That specifically contains the report ? Even the Board of directors has not been seen, according to our information. For his part, the minister, Roy has indicated that they requested on two occasions to the board, but not to have obtained.
The saga of the Museum of fine arts, Montreal leaves an institution wounded, which no longer has the shame of washing its dirty linen in public. Tensions have been excavated at the direction of, the Board of directors and even among the billionaires who give generously of paintings and dollars.
Wednesday, to calm the game, the museum has released a statement in which a dozen of his heads of conservation have appreciated the qualities of their new boss.
“Mary has earned our deep respect for its openness to collaboration, his intelligence, his capacity of listening and learning fast, his discretion, his modesty, his integrity and the quality of its scholarly publications,” they expressed in the block.
“Of the around “
Nathalie Bondil, for its part, is emptied the heart in all forums of media.
“My dismissal is around, really, that mask a recruitment process that is irregular “, a-t-it started in an interview with the QMI Agency.
The former director mentioned, without nuance problems of governance, arguing that the decision to appoint Mary-Dailey Desmarais would have been taken behind closed doors by the Board of directors.
“The board took the direction of the museum. We [the leadership], it annoys. It can’t work like that. There is a confusion of roles between the chairman and DG “, she said.
Interference ? Michel de la Chenelière did not hear from this ear. He did not want to grant us an interview, but responded Thursday to many of our questions through the responsible for media relations at the MMFA.
“The Board of directors attempts to meet the distancing habitual to the effect that he does not intervene in the internal management of the museum, but when the attitude and the behavior of its director general are so problematic, it has no choice but to intervene “, he argued.
The chairman of the bod persists and signs : the dismissal of Ms. Bondil “has nothing to do with the process of selection of Mary-Dailey Desmarais, and is due to the” work climate unhealthy “.
“She has not responded to the grievances of the staff, both in 2019 in 2020, not recognizing the seriousness of these problems, and did not ensure that the appropriate fixes are made.”
Will it work ?
Nathalie Bondil has this week received the support of 26 women leaders of Quebec and Canada, including several managers of businesses, which are brought to its defense.
“We express our refusal to accept the dismissal of Ms. Bondil. We hope that this situation will be reviewed and corrected, in agreement with the Québec government and the donors and Friends that allow MBAM to shine, ” write-in an open letter.
Then, Nathalie Bondil, will return it to the MBAM or is she a part for good ? The ex-leader of the Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée, has an opinion, though arrested on that and has posted on Twitter Wednesday.
“If in 10 days Nathalie Bondil is not back to its position, its conditions, that is to despair of the combined power of the Quebec government and the Desmarais ! “.
Three generations of Desmarais… and art lovers
1. Paul Desmarais (deceased in 2013) and his wife, Jacqueline (deceased in 2018), seen here in 2011 in the process of receiving the rank of chevalier of the Legion of honor from the hands of the ex-French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
2. Below, Paul Desmarais Jr and his wife, Hélène. And lower, André Desmarais and his wife, France Chrétien Desmarais. The latter have publicly expressed concern about governance problems at the MMFA in the context of the dismissal of Nathalie Bondil, the result of the promotion of Mary-Dailey Desmarais, the wife of their nephew.
3. Paul Desmarais III, is the son of Paul Jr. and Hélène. He is currently senior vice-president at Power Corporation. Mary-Dailey Desmarais, his wife since 2008, has recently been appointed as director of conservation at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. She studied in the best american universities.