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Whose Excellence at the National Gallery of Canada?

March 4, 2010

On February 2, 2010, Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), sparked outrage in the Canadian artistic community after appearing on CBC’s The National in a spot titled “Diaspora Art.” When asked why NGC does not pay attention to culturally diverse artists, he replied, “We are only interested in excellence … we are blind to colour and ethnic background.”

On March 1, 2010, an open letter was forwarded to Mr. Mayer and his Board of Directors. Co-written by independent curators Emily Falvey (Montreal) and Milena Placentile (Winnipeg), the letter asked an important question: whose excellence is Mr. Mayer talking about?

Historically, abstract terms like “the good” and “excellent” have been used to exclude minorities and perpetuate a dominant monoculture. NGC’s current mandate of “excellence” raises serious questions about its ability to represent a culturally diverse nation like Canada.

To date, over 200 members of the Canadian artistic community have signed the letter, and this number continues to grow each day. There has been no response from Marc Mayer or the National Gallery of Canada.

To read this letter and view the list of signatures, please go to:

The episode of /The National /may be viewed at:

For more information contact:
Milena Placentile

Emily Falvey
Phone: 514-279-9774

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