On January 18, 2019, Marc Mayer will step down as Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, signaling the end of a decade of leadership at the helm of the country’s premier art institution.
Reflecting on his tenure, Franҫoise Lyon, Chair of the Gallery’s Board of Trustees said, “Since the Gallery’s inception in 1880, many eminent individuals have led this institution in fulfilling its legislative mandate. For his decade of leadership, Marc Mayer will certainly be counted among them. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I extend my deepest gratitude to Mr. Mayer for his dedication and remarkable service to this institution.”
Marc Mayer joined the Gallery as Director and CEO in 2008. Prior to moving to Ottawa, he held numerous positions at reputable institutions in Canada and around the world – including Head of Visual Arts at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, Director at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Director of the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, and Deputy Director of Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. In his ten years of service at the National Gallery of Canada, he oversaw a host of significant accomplishments, from the reimagining of the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries to the restoration of Canada’s pavilion in Venice and the creation of the Canadian Photography Institute.
About his motivation to join the Gallery, Marc Mayer said, “Once I finally decided to apply to become the next Director of the National Gallery of Canada back in 2008, it was not without trepidation. It was here where I first encountered important works of art as a child visiting from Sudbury; and here where I first felt myself becoming an art lover, resolving, very young, to visit as many places as possible that were like it, places where I would be surrounded by nothing but great art.”
In the years that followed his appointment, Marc Mayer fully immersed himself in the role, in addition to organizing successful exhibitions – including the first full-scale retrospective on Canadian artist Jack Bush alongside guest curator Dr. Sarah Stanners – Marc Mayer is credited with leading many important acquisitions for inclusion in the Gallery’s national collection. Chief among them are Joseph Siffred Duplessis’ Monsieur de Buissy (c. 1780); Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s Countess Anna Ivanovna Tolstaya (1796); Sophie Ristelhueber’s Fait (1992), Roxy Paine’s One Hundred Foot Line (2010); Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010); and Geoffrey Farmer’s Leaves of Grass (2012).
Perhaps the most ambitious project completed under Marc Mayer’s tenure was the creation of the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, which marked the first major gallery transformation since the Moshe Safdie-designed building was inaugurated in 1988. Alongside several other Indigenous-focused initiatives – including the formation of an Indigenous Advisory Committee, the establishment of an Indigenous Quinquennial exhibition, and the hiring of a Curator of Historical Indigenous Art – the new galleries seamlessly integrate Canadian and Indigenous art within the larger storyline of art history in Canada.
Marc Mayer similarly led ventures in the acquisition and promotion of contemporary art. In 2016 the Gallery entered into a partnership with the Sobey Art Foundation to become the organizing institution for the Sobey Art Award, one of Canada’s most important contemporary art prizes. Since its founding in 2002, the Award has not only helped to advance the careers of young artists through significant monetary prizes – and new this year, international artist residencies – but has also provided the opportunity for the general public to see the latest developments in Canadian contemporary art through the accompanying exhibitions.
In 2015 the Gallery established the Canadian Photography Institute (CPI), a national research centre of excellence devoted to photography. A permanent exhibition space within the Gallery opened in 2016 to showcase its vast and varied photography collections. Of Marc Mayer’s involvement, Former Chair of the Board of Trustees, Michael Tims, said, “From the Board’s perspective, we really looked to management for strategy and key ideas. Marc Mayer and his team brought forward the idea of creating a dedicated photography institute, and we were very fortunate to be able to get a lead gift from Scotiabank to bring it all together. The National Gallery of Canada now has one of the leading photography collections in the world.”
In an effort to connect to donors and support partnerships across Canada and around the world, Marc Mayer nurtured a close working relationship with the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. On December 5, 2018, the Foundation hosted a gala in celebration of his service. In addition to raising $3 million in support of the Gallery’s national and international outreach efforts, the event led to the donation of two special gifts of art to the Gallery in Marc Mayer’s honour: The Last of the Hurons (Zacharie Vincent) (1838) by Antoine Plamondon, a gift by Distinguished Patrons Fred and Beverly Schaeffer of Toronto; and Parade, Party or Protest by Geoffrey Farmer (2003), a gift by Gilles and Julia Ouellette of Toronto.
On his departure, Marc Mayer said “As my most rewarding adventure now comes to a close, I feel more grateful than relieved and more humble than proud. Leadership is a communal characteristic as much as a personal trait; it’s the musicians who make the music, after all, not the conductor. No words can express how deeply rewarding it has been for me to serve Canada in this role; the life defining honour of having been given it will stay with me always.”
Anne Eschapasse, Deputy Director, Exhibitions & Outreach and Julie Peckham, Deputy Director, Administration & Chief Financial Officer will act on an interim basis as co-Directors and co-CEOs of the National Gallery of Canada until a successor to Marc Mayer is in place.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit gallery.ca and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
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