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Museums and Archives (67-70)

Art Gallery of Ontario’s associate curator of Indigenous art, Taqralik Partridge, departs 

January 25, 2024
The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, on July 22, 2017.ROBERTO MACHADO NOA/GETTY IMAGES

The Globe and Mail: The Art Gallery of Ontario has lost another Indigenous curator, as Taqralik Partridge, its associate curator of Indigenous art who focused on Inuit art, has quietly departed the institution. Her departure follows the exit of the gallery’s inaugural curator of Indigenous art Wanda Nanibush last fall.

The list of curators on the AGO’s website no longer names anyone officially overseeing the curation of Indigenous art at the gallery.

Ms. Partridge is an Inuk poet, performer and a past editor-at-large for Inuit Art Quarterly, originally hailing from Kuujjuaq in the Nunavik region of Quebec. She had previously been the director of the Nordic Lab, a branch of the SAW Centre in Ottawa.

The AGO hired her in late 2022 after a long relationship with the institution. She co-curated the major 2018 exhibition of Inuit art, Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, and had already brought works by the Inuvialuk artist Kablusiak and Inuk artist Niap into the gallery’s collection.

Ms. Partridge did not immediately respond to a request for comment. There is no public information linking her departure to Ms. Nanibush’s, and AGO spokesperson Laura Quinn said Thursday that Ms. Partridge had left the gallery “to focus on her art practice.”

Ms. Quinn did not confirm the date of the curator’s departure, but said staff were told about it in early January. In an exhibition of her work that opened this week at the Onsite Gallery at Toronto’s OCAD University, ᐳᓛᖃᑎᒌᑦ (Pulaaqatigiit), the AGO is not listed among her affiliations.

“Taqralik Partridge’s curatorial work supporting the care, acquisition, research, interpretation and exhibition of Inuit art of all periods has been invaluable to the AGO,” Stephan Jost, the gallery’s director and chief executive, said in a statement, adding that the organization will hire a replacement. “The AGO remains fundamentally and fully committed to our reconciliation journey and to showing, acquiring and programming Indigenous art, voices and stories.”

The AGO, Ontario’s flagship art gallery in downtown Toronto, has been under intense scrutiny since Ms. Nanibush’s departure last fall. Her hiring in 2016, and subsequent exhibitions and efforts to showcase the colonial experiences of Indigenous peoples worldwide, helped bring her renown around the globe.

Since before her hiring at the AGO, Ms. Nanibush had also been outspoken about linking the experiences of Palestinians and the Indigenous peoples of North America through a colonial lens. She made this clear with at least one social-media post following the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

Her social-media activity prompted a group of Canadian supporters of Jerusalem’s Israel Museum to write a letter to Mr. Jost, accusing her of “posting inflammatory, inaccurate rants against Israel.” (The specific post is unclear, and she has since appeared to have deleted all public social media.)

In an open letter at the end of November, Mr. Jost said that the AGO “is being asked to better define the rights and limits of political and artistic expression in a locally diverse but globally complex environment.” He did not name Ms. Nanibush in the letter. “We will go through a process to listen, to understand multiple perspectives, and then together we will articulate our institutional position,” he continued.

JOSH O’KANE, Staff Reporter