Pace Gallery Parts Ways With Two Top Executives Accused of Abusive Behavior Amid a Broader Company Restructuring
Douglas Baxter and Susan Dunne, two longtime executives at Pace, will depart the company as a new leadership team is formed.
Four months after employees raised allegations of abuse, harassment, and unethical business practices against top executives at Pace Gallery, the company has announced a restructuring effort that includes two major departures.
Douglas Baxter and Susan Dunne, who have worked at the dealership for decades, are leaving the gallery. A spokeswoman confirmed that while Pace no longer employs Baxter, he would remain a senior advisor to the gallery. Dunne resigned from her position.
Their exits coincide with news that Pace has concluded its legal investigation into misconduct allegations facing the two gallery presidents, though a gallery spokeswoman said that the results from that inquiry would not be released to the public.
“With our internal reorganization we are focused on creating a new culture, and it is my privilege and responsibility to lead that change,” said Marc Glimcher, Pace’s president and chief executive, in a statement. “We are striving to make Pace a place where people feel respected and empowered but also challenged and responsible.”
Issues at the gallery surfaced in November, when Artnet News published an investigation into nearly two decades of misconduct allegations against Baxter and Dunne. Eight employees called the work environment “toxic” and detailed instances of abuse, racism and anti-Semitism from top executives.
Baxter was central to many of those allegations, which included him throwing objects at his assistants’ heads and raising the price of artworks based on a collector’s nationality. A 2017 recording also surfaced where he criticized a woman who alleged that Chuck Close, an artist represented by the gallery, had sexually harassed her when she was a graduate student. (“Clearly she is some privileged girl. She went to fucking Yale, and I’m going to feel sorry for her?” he said.)
After the investigation was published, Baxter took a leave of absence from the gallery. In an email to staff at the time, he wrote, “I would like to apologize to those who I hurt through my actions both directly and because of the atmosphere I created in my office and that spread beyond it.”
For survivors of Baxter’s alleged abuse, Pace’s decision to continue working with its former top lieutenant in an advisory capacity was disheartening.
“It feels like a loophole,” said Joseph de Leon, one of Baxter’s former assistants. “I’m not personally happy with that because if it were my gallery, I would say that his behavior was unacceptable.”
“No matter where you are in the hierarchy of a workplace,” he added, “you have to treat people with dignity and respect, patience, and kindness.”
Employees had also complained to Artnet News that Glimcher had hired his child, Lilleth Glimcher, to steer the gallery’s diversity initiative. The gallery now says its equity efforts will be led by a full-time coordinator, Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond, alongside two external consultants, Dina Bailey and Matthew Kincaid. According to a spokeswoman, Lilleth has not been directly involved in the diversity initiative since January of this year.
Other promotions were announced as part of the restructuring, including the elevation of Joe Baptista and Samanthe Rubell to executive positions within the company, where they will help lead its global sales team. Danielle Forest will become the company’s chief of staff after serving as Glimcher’s executive assistant. Amelia Redgrift is taking over as the gallery’s chief communications and marketing officer.
Over the past year, the gallery has opened two new locations in East Hampton and Palm Beach and announced plans to open a new space in London in Hanover Square this fall. It also laid off around 20 staff members, citing the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Some employees, who learned about the executive changes when reached for comment, felt that the overhaul was needed, but doubted whether it would result in a deeper shift.
“Douglas and Susan needed to go,” said one current employee who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, “But that doesn’t mean that the dealers who are left are saints. There is plenty of toxicity at the top, which halts any real progress.”
In his statement, Glimcher addressed the speculation about whether real change would be possible at Pace.
“I want our humility, warmth, and curiosity to be the hallmarks of our relationship with artists, collectors, and anyone who crosses our door or encounters us online,” he said. “I recognize we still have work to do on improving structures and practices within the gallery to create a truly equitable workplace.”
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