Baltic Center Staff Revolt
Date: 6 Jul 2007 | | Views: 3823
Source: The Times (UK) (www.timesonline.co.uk), by Dalya Alberge
The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, the £46 million complex hailed as the North’s answer to Tate Modern at its opening five years ago, is in turmoil with its director facing a motion of no confidence from his staff.
As many as 46 employees are believed to have signed a document protesting about Peter Doroshenko, who took on the directorship of one of Europe’s biggest arts centres only two years ago.
Insiders told The Times yesterday that they can no longer tolerate his management style, which they described as “intolerable” and “bullying”.
Ten members of staff – out of about 28 – are reported to have left in the past 12 months alone. “Rather a high turnover,” one insider said, adding that curatorial staff had left or are leaving because they felt sidelined from curatorial decisions.
Just as the centre should be celebrating its fifth birthday this month, its employees are criticising the director in a questionnaire which staff circulated among colleagues.
Its conclusions were submitted last month to the chairman, Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, who, in turn, commissioned an outside human resources specialist to talk to the staff and produce an independent report. That report is expected to be delivered this week, ahead of next week’s board meeting on July 11.
One insider said: “In talking to the human resources person, staff didn’t hold back at all. Her body language suggested to them that she was shocked by what she was hearing.”
Sir Ian confirmed to The Times yesterday that the questionnaire had prompted him to commission a review and that the matter will be discussed at the board meeting. But he declined to comment further: “I’ll be happy to talk about this when we have completed the steps to resolve the dispute”.
Mr Doroshenko could not be contacted yesterday, but his spokeswoman said: “We are not aware of a vote of no confidence in the director.” Staff at the Baltic first voiced their grievances about Mr Doroshenko a year ago, in a letter sent to him by their union, Unison. In his reply, seen by The Times yesterday, the director acknowledged a “climate of fear and intimidation” but rejected “the implication that it has been deliberately cultivated at Baltic”.
Dismissing their grievance, he concluded his letter by saying: “I now consider this matter closed.”
Three years ago, before Mr Doroshenko’s appointment, a critical Arts Council report, leaked to The Times, expressed alarm over management and staffing, the absence of “any ongoing business planning work”, the lack of accounting and the “considerable uncertainty” over the budget.
Insiders also criticised Mr Doroshenko for apparently wasting time that should have been devoted to the Baltic to helping the Ukraine at this year’s Venice Biennale.
His parents came from the Ukraine and he is also president of the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev.