Burke, now as then: Toronto Life article out this week
Several months of hand-wringing on the part of the city's power elite ends this week with the publication of a much-feared Toronto Life profile of Power Plant director Gregory Burke. And it really ends: I received a preview copy of the piece, and I can confidently say that it contains nothing revelatory or even mildly bombastic about the institution or its soon-to-be-former director.
This will surely come as a relief both to Burke and the high-powered board he serves, though it does leave us wondering what all the fuss has been about these past couple of months.
Apparently, a fact checker from the magazine called Burke on the day of the Thomas Hirshhorn opening last month; Burke was so taken aback at the questions that he immediately sent a letter refuting much of the piece's content. How or why (or if) this influenced the final version remains a mystery, but it does suggest that the piece is far from the magazine's ideal. (A pull-quote, containing the one and only smidgen of enmity -- however mild --in the entire piece, should tell you all you need to know: "(Burke) screams and yells at people, shaking his finger." The horror!)
One way or the other,it was a roller coaster; the piece began as a straight-up profile of the enigmatic director, whose bashful persona always seemed at odds with the high-power international exhibitions he's snagged for the gallery in his 6-year tenure. Mid-way through the reporting, Burke abruptly resigned, sending the magazine's writer, Daniel Baird, into a frenzied re-do in search of where the bodies were buried.
The end result is neither here, nor there -- not a full picture of the gallery's, or Burke's, artistic priorities, nor an incisive dissection of his character, the piece comes across as a flat coat of primer on general institutional politics for the casually interested. Which is to say, the keenly interested -- you and I -- won't find much we didn't already know.