Ousted director sues Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for $2 million

The acrimonious departure of Nathalie Bondil from the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal is, perhaps inevitably, heading for a courtroom showdown. Bondil was director of the Quebecois institution from 2007 until July 2020, when she was sacked a year before contract renewal for creating, it was claimed a ‘toxic work environment.’

Nathalie Bondil

Bondil, a huge figure on the local art scene, who was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her work at the institution, hit back saying that it was she, in fact, that was the victim of bullying.

Bondil claims she was forced out because she refused to back hiring Mary-Dailey Desmarais – who is a member of a prominent family of collectors, patrons who have made significant donations to the institution – to the newly-created role of Director of the Curatorial Division. Leaked internal documents show that Desmarais was ranked only fourth in the candidate selection process, with another interviewee reaching an almost perfect scoring.

Mary-Dailey Desmarais. Photo: Stéphanie Badini

Bondil is now demanding $2 million (£1.2m) compensation, split between ‘moral’ damages and ‘punitive’ damages, over what she says is the museum board’s ‘destruction of her reputation’.

‘The defendants orchestrated, led and continue to lead, intentionally, a smear campaign against the reputation of Mme Bondil for the sole and unique purpose of masking the true reason that they abruptly and maliciously dismissed Mme Bondil,’ reads the lawsuit.

The board has made no comment about the legal action but back in July said ‘allegations of psychological harassment within the Museum’s conservation department persist.’ On Friday, chair, Michel de la Chenelière, resigned the position, though he remains a trustee.

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