Pace Gallery’s Longtime President Is Taking an Indefinite Leave of Absence Following Misconduct Allegations

Douglas Baxter has pledged to cooperate with the gallery’s legal investigation.

Douglas Baxter in November 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Douglas Baxter, a Pace Gallery president at the center of allegations of workplace misconduct, has announced that he will take an unpaid leave of absence while the megadealer investigates the claims against him.

“I am aware that I have behaved in ways that created distress and hurt people around me,” Baxter wrote to staff in an email on Monday. “I have anger management issues and, while I’ve made attempts to address them in the past, the time has come for me to really deal with it.”

The executive’s decision to temporarily depart Pace Gallery, where he has spent decades as a top dealer of Modern and contemporary art and shaped the careers of such artists as Fred Wilson, Maya Lin, and Joel Shapiro, comes less than a week after Artnet News published an investigation into a history of misconduct allegations against Baxter and another gallery president, Susan Dunne. Eight employees described the workplace as “toxic,” detailing accounts of physical and verbal abuse that spanned nearly 20 years.

“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,” Baxter wrote, adding that he would participate fully in the gallery’s investigation.

Pace has declined to provide additional details about the legal inquiry, including which lawyers are leading it, how long it will take, and if executives would face disciplinary measures. The gallery’s CEO Marc Glimcher has declined to speak publicly about the challenges facing his company.

In a staff email sent over the weekend, Glimcher expressed frustration with employees who chose to speak to the press about the allegations and their disappointment with Pace’s response.

“If anyone thinks that my commitment to you all and this company is ‘bullshit’ and that your complaints fall on deaf ears, please call me,” he wrote. “I know there are persistent problems that need fixing…. All I ask is that you give us a chance to do our investigation and then make the changes that need to be made, rather than insisting we crucify someone in the town square THE NEXT DAY on the advice of anonymous leaks to the press.”

Executive misconduct has been under increasing scrutiny at the world’s largest dealerships. Earlier this month, Gagosian fired one of its most visible directors, Sam Orlofsky, in the course of an investigation into “serious misconduct” at the company.

Riccardo Zagorodnev, one of Baxter’s former assistants, said he and other colleagues are anxiously waiting to be contacted by gallery officials in order to contribute to the investigation. “If they don’t reach out to victims for statements, it will be quite obvious to me that this is a toothless gesture,” he said.

Joseph de Leon, another former assistant to the president, says he needs to see more before he will be convinced the company is committed to change. “I put in my time, six months’ worth, of talking to one HR person that left, followed by a new HR person, followed by the COO,” he said. “If they wanted to change the culture there, they could. It would begin by ridding their company of abusers and promoting and celebrating employees that contribute positively to the company’s environment.”

Pace declined to discuss details about Susan Dunne’s future at the company; she is currently working remotely while the investigation continues. Meanwhile, at least one artist is coming to her defense.

Cordy Ryman, the son of the late Minimalist painter Robert Ryman, does not see the allegations against Dunne as comparable to those against other Pace executives. “From the sidelines, I’ve seen Susan successfully navigate and rise to the top of her field in an industry which as we all know has been full of glass ceilings,” said Ryman, whose father’s estate is overseen by Dunne at the gallery. “I feel at least she deserves an acknowledgment for her success.”

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