Friday, September 25, 2009

Duly noted: William Thorsell leaving the ROM in 2010

OK, so I was going to lay off the museum stuff for a while, but I just wanted to duly note a brief item from today's Toronto Star——namely, that Bill Thorsell is retiring as CEO of the ROM next August. As reported in the print edition of the Star (not to be found online):

"I knew my contract was coming up and that prompted me to think about what we've achieved over the past decade," Thorsell, 64, explained in an interview yesterday. "This seemed like the right time for me to make this move."

Sal Badali, chair of the ROM's board of trustees, said Thorsell's decision comes as a shock because of the key role he has played since taking on the job in 2000 after serving 10 years as editor of the Globe and Mail.

The Globe and the Canadian Press also ran items today, and the ROM issued a related press release yesterday.

But the most interesting media to come out of this news item for yours truly was one I missed last year and found while Googling around this evening—a profile in local queer mag Fab, which opines:

A gay man takes over an old building and what’s the first thing he does? Drops a quarter-billion in renovations.

In 2000, William Thorsell, who had been editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail since 1989, took over as CEO of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the fifth-largest museum in North America. That makes him one of this country’s top antique dealers. Of course, the collection he oversees is priceless.

Thorsell is one gay man for whom the word “crystal” has a positive connotation. Nobody can walk by the corner of Bloor West and Queen’s Park Crescent without marvelling at the 2800-tonne steel skeleton of what will eventually become the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the ROM’s current expansion project designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.

The project is nothing short of spectacular, and it could not be any gayer. This is drag architecture at its finest: it’s not just about being noticed, but about having the most stunning gown at the ball. When New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) completed its recent expansion, it struck the Manhattan cityscape like a well-tailored power suit amidst a sea of ready-to-wear. MoMA had a straight person at the helm. The ROM is led by a man with two white sofas in his office.

A pretty different reading of the whole ROM/Thorsell collision than any other one I've read. Good to see & recommended.

Image of Thorsell in 2007 from the Canadian Press

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