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Gregory Burke is due to start as director of Auckland Art Gallery next month
Gregory Burke is due to start as director of Auckland Art Gallery next month

SocietyMarch 6, 2019

New Auckland Art Gallery boss under investigation for alleged workplace harassment

Gregory Burke is due to start as director of Auckland Art Gallery next month
Gregory Burke is due to start as director of Auckland Art Gallery next month

New Zealander Gregory Burke is due to start as Auckland Art Gallery director next month.

The new director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is under investigation for alleged workplace harassment in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is investigating a complaint filed by a co-worker against Gregory Burke, according to a report by Canada’s CBC News. The complaint dates to Burke’s time as CEO of the Mendel Art Gallery, now the Remai Modern, in the city of Saskatoon where he has worked since 2013.

CBC News, part of Canada’s national broadcaster, reported that it learnt of the woman’s complaint after obtaining a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission document which quoted an investigator as saying she would seek information from the complainant, Burke and “all potential witnesses”.

The Canadian media report did not name the woman involved, nor the nature of the complaint. “The commission document obtained by CBC News does not detail the specifics of the allegation,” noted the report. The commission would neither confirm nor deny the complaint or investigation.

When approached for comment about the investigation into the harassment complaint, Auckland Art Gallery referred The Spinoff to the Auckland Council controlled Regional Facilities Auckland.

Chris Brooks, CEO of Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) and acting director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, said: “The team at Regional Facilities Auckland is aware of a reported investigation by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. However, out of consideration for privacy and any due process that may follow, RFA will not – as in all cases of this type – be making any further statement.”

CBC News reported that “Burke did not respond to multiple requests for comment.”

Burke, a New Zealander, was appointed director of the Auckland Art Gallery in December 2018 and is due to start in the role in April. His last day at Remai Modern is scheduled to be March 15.

According to CBC, Burke announced his resignation in December, saying he was leaving to take up the role in Auckland.

“It took me a bit by surprise but I have a lot of support there to go back and I feel that I was probably ready to move on about a year or so or a year or two anyway,” CBC quotes him as saying.

“It’s a very difficult decision and I really am overwhelmed and humbled by the hundreds of thousands of visitors that we’ve received, particularly from the Saskatoon community, and the support we’ve received,” he said at the time of his resignation.

In 2005, The Listener described Burke as “New Zealand’s most important art curator”. He was director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth from 1998 to 2005, then moved to Canada to run The Power Plant in Toronto from 2005 to 2011. 

Burke curated New Zealand’s inaugural pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2001, and was the New Zealand in Venice Commissioner in 2005.

Burke’s latest appointment was announced by the Auckland Art Gallery in December. “One of the reasons for Burke’s appointment is a track record of substantially increasing the number of visitors to each gallery he’s worked with,” said a press release from the gallery.

CBC reports that Burke headed up the transformation of the Mendel Art Gallery into the Remai Modern Art Museum, overseeing the construction of the CA$84.6-million art museum on Saskatoon’s riverfront after he came on board in 2013. The museum had more than 450,000 visitors in its first year, more than double initial projections, reported CBC. 

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