The Director of Brussels’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts Has Resigned Amid Toxic Workplace Allegations—But Already Has a New Job

Michael Draguet is stepping down after 18 years as director.

Michel Draguet, director of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Photo courtesy Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

Michel Draguet is stepping down after 18 years as the head of Brussels’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, following staff allegations that he had fostered a toxic work environment, rife with harassment, sexism, and racism, among other complaints.

First appointed in 2005, Draguet was seeking a fifth term as the museum’s director. Now, his last day will be April 30. He agreed to resign following a meeting of trade unions and the museum’s management on Monday, reported Le Journal des Arts.

But though the accusations may have cost Draguet one job, he has already secured another, working with the Belgium Science Policy Office (BELSPO) as a senior heritage researcher.

Draguet’s leadership came under question in December, when six former and current employees spoke out against him. A letter of complaint from 31 workers to the secretary of state for scientific policy, Thomas Dermine, soon followed, and an open letter was published earlier this month.

The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels. Photo by Michel Wal, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Photo by Michel Wal, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Workers said that Draguet was prone to “flirty” remarks, and once said a former employee had “the intelligence of a vagina.” His regime, they alleged, amounted to a reign of “terror” that pushed many staffers to burnout.

BELSPO was involved in the investigation of Draguet and his leadership at the museum, which included a 28-page report from Empreva, a city agency that protects the workforce. The report’s conclusions will be made public in June.

“I would like to point out that the evaluation process, which I completed on March 23, did not provide any material evidence of the accusations of racism, homophobia, or sexism reported in the press,” BELSPO chairman Arnaud Vajda said in a statement, as translated by Artdependence Magazine. “Now that this chapter has been closed, I am pleased to be able to rely on Michel Draguet’s expertise.”

The announcement of Draguet’s departure also included praise for his tenure from Dermine, particularly for his work opening the Magritte Museum and the Fin de Siècle Museum.

For his part, Draguet maintained that the BELSPO inquiry proved that the complaints against him referenced remarks that had been “decontextualized” or “manipulated to be false,” Le Soir reported. He thanked the organization for “a truly objective investigation,” even “in the age of social networks and media lynching.”

As the Royal Museums begins its search for a new leader, it has tapped Sara Lammens, the director general of the Royal Library of Belgium, as interim director.

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