On May 13, Nathalie Bondil the Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art was invested as a member of the Order of Canada. According to the Order of Canada press release Bondil was awarded the honour for her contributions to the promotion of the arts and culture as a museologist and administrator. “As both the director and chief curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, she developed an outstanding social and educational mission, oversaw the museum’s expansion with the creation of two new pavilions and put together multidisciplinary exhibitions to reach as many people as possible. Under her leader-ship, the institution doubled its attendance figures and joined the exclusive ranks of museums that have welcomed one million visitors in a single year. Through her efforts the museum also became Canada’s leading exporter of exhibitions to museums in other countries.” Madame Bondil has received numerous honours and to describe her as a dynamo may actually be selling her short. French born and educated Bondil is an art history graduate from the Ecole du Louvre and from the Ecole nationale du patrimonie de Paris. In 1999 Guy Cogeval hired her as the MMFA’s European curator and in 2007 she became Director and Chief Curator. Her ability as an administrator would appear to be extraordina-ry. She knows how to make things happen. The MMFA went from 550,000 visitors in 2010 to more than a million visitors in 2012 and 2013. These are achievements that no other Canadian museum can match. You probably won’t be surprised to find out that the MMFA also has the lowest cost per visitor in Canada. The museum also has more members than any other museum in Canada and more than 300,000 people take part in educational and cultural activities run or hosted by the museum. To say that Bondil has transformed the MMFA may actually be a little short sighted. If you take a second look at things it might be more accurate to say that Bondil has transformed the museolo-gical experience.
Broadly put I think it would be fair to say that she has extin-guished or at least gone a very long way towards extinguishing the distinction between high and low art. Exhibitions on David Bowie, John and Yoko and Miles Davis, as well as others are perhaps the best examples of this as are the fashion exhibitions on Jean Paul Galtier and Yves St. Laurent. Under her stewardship the MMFA has become a very inclusive institution. It has partnered to deliver programs with more than 400 community organizations across Quebec. While there is no doubt that a fair number of those 400 organizations consist of various schools there are also a number of partnerships that will initially, at least, raise certain eyebrows. The museum has a program that encourages blind or nearly blind people to experience art through touching certain sculptures. It also has partnered with the Douglas Hospital to work on art therapy designed to help combat eating disorders. Just recently it announced a joint venture with EquiLibre desi-gned to promote positive body image through an exploration of various types of beauty. There are also programs with the Breakfast Clubs of Canada designed to get low income and disadvantaged people into the museum to experience art. Madame Bondil has said in the past that, “I’m convinced that in the 21st century, culture will be as important for health as sport was in the 20th century.” The truth of the matter is that the more people who set foot in any place of art, a gallery, a sidewalk exhibition or a museum is a good thing because it helps art propagate and with that propagation develops an increased sense of humanitarianism.
Bravo and congratulations to Nathalie Bondil.