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December 21, 2023

National Gallery of Canada Director Apologizes

Decolonization comments were a “mistake”
By Zool Suleman
David Garneau, Tawatinâ Bridge images
Image Credit: David Garneau, Tawatinâ Bridge images.

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Rungh News received a response from Douglas Chow, Director of Communications, at the National Gallery of Canada. In his response, Chow apologized for previous miscommunications and referred Rungh News to a Letter from the Director and CEO dated December 20, 2023, signed by Jean-François Bélisle, on the National Gallery of Canada website.

In his letter, Bélisle apologizes for his dismissive use of the term “decolonization”, during a recorded podcast interview with journalist Paul Wells on November 8, 2023. On December 9, 2023, Rungh News reported on this interview, Decolonize National Gallery of Canada? Rungh News also followed up with social media posts starting a weekly “apology watch”.

Bélisle, in his apology, refers to “expressing my discomfort with the way the term decolonization is used and received differently by people”. One of these “people”, of course, is Bélisle himself given Bélisle’s comments to Paul Wells that Bélisle was “not even sure I’m interested in thinking about it”.

Asked by Rungh News to comment on the apology, Kwantlen artist and educator, Brandon Gabriel wrote:

“If the Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada wasn't held accountable for his comments there would have been no apology. So, it's insincere, and merely colonial word soup.”

Social media posts and other reactions provided to Rungh News reflect a scepticism in the arts community towards Bélisle’s apology. The National Gallery of Canada has committed to an art sector forum in 2024 as Bélisle commits to “building an inclusive future together”.

Letter from the Director and CEO - National Gallery of Canada
Letter from the Director and CEO, National Gallery of Canada. Download PDF.