Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Up for Discussion: Gregory Burke Is Leaving the Power Plant

I already tweeted this earlier today, but because a lot of folks may want to comment on this, I'm just going to repost the Power Plant's press release from this morning about director Gregory Burke's resignation. Says the press release:


February 8, 2011

Gregory Burke, Director of The Power Plant, today announced that he will leave his position at the end of May, 2011, after close to six years in the role.

On joining The Power Plant in 2005, Burke immediately set in place the development of a five year strategic plan, adopted in 2006. Under that plan, Burke led a broad range of ambitious initiatives to develop The Power Plant and increase awareness of its internationally significant programs. In 2006, Burke launched All Summer, All Free, a program providing free admission to tens of thousands of visitors to The Power Plant. This program, combined with other new public programs, has led to The Power Plant increasing visitation by more than 250% during Burke’s tenure. The Power Plant annual commissioning program was also launched by Burke in 2006, with the aim of realizing major new projects of international significance. Since then outstanding projects have been commissioned from Rafeal Lozanno-Hemmer, Simon Starling, Lawrence Weiner, Scott Lyall, Candice Breitz, Ian Wallace and Pae White.

In 2007, Burke initiated, with the Gallery’s Board of Directors, a highly successful 20th anniversary fundraising campaign. The highlight was the record-breaking 20/20 dinner and auction that featured major donated works by leading international artists, such as Christopher Williams, Francesco Vezzoli, Stan Douglas, Liam Gillick and General Idea. Burke also implemented many other new initiatives working with The Power Plant staff and Board including the annual Face to Face fundraising dinner, the bi-annual magazine of The Power Plant SWITCH and Power Talks, which brought many leading figures from the world of contemporary art to Toronto, including Hou Hanru, Jerry Saltz, Fumio Nanjo, Iwona Blazwick, Anton Vidokle, Thea Westreich and Thomas Crow.

Over the last five years Burke’s vision has also driven the international and critically acclaimed exhibition program of The Power Plant, with many of the exhibitions being curated by Mr. Burke including Fiona Banner: The Bastard Word, Auto Emotion: Autobiography, emotion and self-fashioning, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse Front: Relational Architecture 12, Francesco Vezzoli: A True Hollywood Story!, Simon Starling: Cuttings (Supplement), Scott Lyall: The Color Ball, Goldin + Senneby: Headless, LAWRENCE WEINER: THE OTHER SIDE OF A CUL- DE-SAC, Universal Code: Art and Cosmology in the Information Age, Candice Breitz: Same Same, Recent Snow: Michael Snow, Peter Campus: Reflections and Inflections, Ian Wallace: The Economy of the Image, and Pae White: Material Mutters.

In 2009 Burke began developing and fundraising for The Power Plant Access Project that will deliver in 2011 a new reception and lobby designed by KPMB architects, new website, new visual identity, new signage and new communications and publications programs. The project is the most significant capital development since the 1987 opening of The Power Plant. It will be launched to the public on 10 March, 2011, along with the spring exhibitions, including those Burke curated by Thomas Hirschhorn and IƱigo Manglano Ovalle. Burke will continue as Director of The Power Plant until the conclusion of these exhibitions in late May.

William J.S Boyle, Chief Executive of Harbourfront Centre and Shanitha Kachan, President of The Power Plant Board said: “Greg has made many important contributions to the growing international stature of The Power Plant during his tenure as Director. On behalf of Harbourfront Centre and the Board of The Power Plant we extend our appreciation to Greg for his significant accomplishments on our behalf and wish him well in his new endeavours.”

What do you think? Obviously the talk by new PP curator Melanie O'Brian, scheduled for tonight at the Drake Hotel, will be even more well (or excitingly) attended as a result. I won't be able to make it, but look forward to reports.

(Image of the Power Plant smokestack by Xavier Snelgrove/wxs via Wikimedia Commons)


nick said...

Way to make a parting statement, put out your press release the day the incoming curator makes her first appearance. Class act.

Leah Sandals said...

hey nick,

Thanks for your comment.

Yeah, I wondered about the timing too. It was hard for me to tell whether it was a preemptive thing--let's get it out before anyone else tries to out it at the talk--or something else. Dunno.

I did see that James Adams at the Globe tried to do some more digging on this topic. His helpful article is here:


Anonymous said...

The timing is embarrassing and typical. If you read the release I think its obvious what happened: No mention of the next job; modest overview of 'successes'; vague 'resignation' explanation. After little interaction with locals over six years it's a positive direction for the institution.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi anonymous,

Thanks for your comment.

I personally was surprised the departure took place so relatively soon after that of Helena Reckitt. She worked on many of the shows and programs listed as being amongst his successes.

Conversely, tho, given the relatively short tenures of Reid Shier and Wayne Baerwaldt before them at the PP, I was surprised both Reckitt and Burke lasted as long as they did.

Finally, it's no secret in the local grapevine that Burke had a reputation as being difficult to work for, at best.

I will watch with interest to see what happens next at the gallery and with Burke.

Oh, and as for the Drake talk, I heard it was pretty tame, with Burke's presence curtailing much gossipmania. But that itself, I admit, is pure rumour/secondhand commentary!

Anonymous said...

A reputation for being difficult to work with? That wins understatement of the year. His timing is predictable ... pay attention to me, to me ....

As others have said, not in a long time have I had such pleasure from reading a press release.

Leah Sandals said...

Fair enough anonymous! I hear you on the understatement of the year! I'll try to keep that in mind come December roundup time :)

Earl Miller said...

Since I don't know Greg well, I am more curious what people feel about his curation than his diplomatic/interpersonal skills.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but Earl, one of the problems with him, his 'management' style, and so on is not just a social issue ... it extended to the inability of the PP to have good curation (if you're terrorising everyone on staff, and alienating almost everyone else, how do you end up with decent shows.

Add to this, the PP has a curator and a director. And if the director is spending all his time putting together exhibitions that look like they were put together from a mail-order catalogue (that would be a jab at his curatorial style, BTW) at the last minute, and spending way too much energy and time doing that, and not letting the curator do their job, then who's doing the directing, which is a job and a half even if you aren't a raving psycho.

Leah Sandals said...

Hey Earl and anonymous,

Thanks for your comments and questions.

I'm a little leery of getting into personal or unjustified attacks on anyone, just so's ya know. If there's anything too extreme/unsubstantiated I might have to nix the discussion, which is dumb because this is basically a gossip/rumor thread but just wanted to flag my discomfort.

At the same time, I do appreciate the insight on division of roles (or not) in these instances, and I understand this all to be in the rumoriffic sphere.

From these last two paragraphs you can pretty much consider me a hypocrite... ah well. Maybe I should fire myself!

Anonymous said...


no one will read this now...
At least Burke got the PP out of the financial hole that his predecessors left.
But lets be clear Burke's M.O was and always will be himself and his his career-
His is savvy and knows how to raise money but he's also a star- fucker too.
His curatorial style is similar to Phillip Monk's who is also a star fucker..Remember all the big names he brought to the PP ? How he blew the budget on expensive catalogs that were published long after the shows finished...?
Does the PP still do the token Toronto artist show every summer?
The institutions in TO are so lame when it comes to really supporting their artists...

Anyway glad to see that back of that little Versace Hobbit.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for commenting.

I appreciate frankness as much as anyone else, but the vitriol of your comments make me uncomfortable, perhaps because your assertions are difficult to verify. If you continue this tone or go further, I will probably have to refrain from publishing future comments.

To be fair, it could be I'm just getting overly sensitive in my old age! In any case, the comments moderation is my call here, and just wanted to let you know the reasoning in case you try to comment again and don't see it posted.