Taqralik Partridge has departed from Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), becoming the second Indigenous curator to exit the Canadian museum’s Indigenous and Canadian Art department within two months. Partridge’s leave from AGO earlier this month quickly succeeds the scrutinized departure of Wanda Nanibush, AGO’s inaugural curator of Canadian and Indigenous art, who quietly left the institution in November, spurring speculation that she was under pressure by the museum’s higher-ups over her pro-Palestine comments.
In an email to Hyperallergic, AGO spokesperson Laura Quinn confirmed that Partridge “has chosen to resign from the AGO to focus on her art practice” and that the museum alerted staff of the news in early January. Partridge has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment.
An Inuk-Scottish multidisciplinary artist, writer, and spoken-word poet, Partridge joined AGO’s curatorial team in November 2022 as an associate curator focusing on Inuit Art after working two years as the director of the Nordic Lab at SAW Gallery. “My interest is in helping Inuit have access to our heritage in art spaces and in creating opportunities for Inuit artists working today,” Partridge told Inuit Art Quarterly at the time of her appointment, adding that she was interested in curating exhibitions “to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to Inuit, and therefore welcoming to everyone else.
Partridge played a role in the museum’s acquisition of new Inuit artworks at Art Toronto 2022, including four works by Inuvialuk artist Kablusiak and a hand-beaded wall hanging by Nunavik-born Inuk artist Niap. She also led the launch of new exhibition programming that involved a solo show of Kinngait artist Ningiukulu Teevee that ran during the first half of 2023.
She also co-curated AGO’s 2018 exhibition Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, contributing stories about Inuit experiences and culture to the show. Her own work, “Nunami” (2022) — a hand-beaded amautik (coat) created with her children Isaac and Akinasi — is currently on display in the ongoing exhibition Our Land, Our Art ᓄᓇᑦᑎᓂ ᑕᑯᒥᓇᕐᑐᖁᑎᕗᑦ at the Canadian Museum of Nature.
“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,” AGO Director and CEO Stephan Jost said in a statement shared with Hyperallergic.
Partridge’s departure follows Nanibush’s quiet exit last fall, which resulted in backlash from Indigenous community members and arts workers. The curator’s resignation followed a complaint about her online posts in support of Palestine sent by the pro-Israel organization Israel Museum and Arts, Canada (IMAAC) to AGO leadership, which was anonymously leaked on social media. In response, an open letter from Jost stated that the institution is “taking the time to deeply review and reflect” on its adherence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2022 recommendations for decolonizing Canadian museum policies and practices that perpetuate harm against Indigenous community members.
Most recently, the Indigenous Curatorial Collective, a Canadian nonprofit that works to provide support for Indigenous curators, artists, writers, and academics, has launched an open letter campaign requesting that the museum release Nanibush “from any legal obligations preventing her from speaking publicly about her tenure and dismissal, about how she sees what happened and why.”