Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, has ordered an official investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, racism and sexism at several of the city’s municipal museums, following a scathing report in the French media last month.
The daily newspaper liberation reported in early April that this was the case received “more than 20 testimonials” of “sexual and moral harassment, homophobic, racist and misogynist remarks and even aggression” by staff at six of the city’s 14 museums. The institutions are part of the umbrella organization Paris Musées, which was created in 2013 and has shifted oversight of the museums from the city to a board.
The newspaper’s investigation was sparked by a letter from a group of temporary workers at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which was reportedly sent to the museum’s management and Paris Musées last summer. It accused six officers of harassment and mentioned specific lascivious gestures, such as an officer faking a blowjob to a temp worker. One woman called the museum a “hostile jungle.”
“The renowned establishment is far removed from the flagship image of the French capital [of Paris Musées] Expectations, with 2.2 million visitors [across its museums] in 2021 despite closures related to the Covid pandemic”, liberation abused.
Corresponding liberationA preliminary investigation into the allegations was launched at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris before being referred to the Paris Prosecutor’s Office and then elsewhere.
liberation in addition brought to light similar allegations made against other museums, including the Petit Palais, which organizes exhibitions of historical paintings; Palais Galliera, a fashion museum; and the Musée Carnavalet, dedicated to the history of Paris.
A recurring finding, based on testimony, many of which was anonymous, was that some permanent employees had behaved in a demeaning manner towards the mostly young and female agency workers. The atmosphere conjured is that of a power imbalance that some longtime officials believed they could act with impunity.
The report published in liberation prompted Hidalgo, who was the Socialist Party’s lagging candidate in France’s presidential election last month, to ask the Inspector General of the City of Paris to launch an investigation a week later.
Corresponding liberationHidalgo asked the inspectors to verify that “all warnings have been considered and responses provided”.
In a statement to Artnet News, the Paris Musées said it “would first like to reiterate that protecting victims is an absolute priority for the establishment. We will not tolerate situations of impunity. While several museums have been hit by allegations of harassment in recent years, situations remain very different from museum to museum.”
The statement added that any reports of harassment or discrimination would be investigated and “dealt with in accordance with a strict and closely monitored procedure.” In some cases steps have already been completed (Palais Galliera, Petit Palais, the crypt and the catacombs); in other cases, procedures are still ongoing (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Musée Carnvalet). Some situations may require longer investigation time due to their complexity, but all will be addressed.”
The process at each museum includes an action plan to “protect the victim immediately” by suspending or removing contact with the person accused of harassment, and implementing supportive measures.
An investigation into allegations of harassment could result in the wrongful party receiving a warning or reprimand from Paris Musées. More serious matters could be referred to the City of Paris Disciplinary Board, which has sole jurisdiction for “disciplinary sanctions” such as suspension or dismissal.
The Paris Musées would not disclose details of the staff involved for reasons of confidentiality. However, it confirmed that one civil servant who had been physically and verbally violent towards colleagues had been fired, while another who had made a sexist remark had been suspended.
The institution hopes that the investigation, launched on behalf of the City of Paris, will “allow a diagnosis to be made” and make “recommendations” to improve efficiency in the various museums.
Paris Musées told Artnet New that a few years ago it launched a training program to raise awareness of issues related to sexual and moral harassment. “Since 2019, more than 150 public sector workers have benefited,” the statement said.
Now the Paris Musées are planning to step up “prevention and training” to combat sexual and gender-based violence. She presented her new “Action Plan” to the museum unions to strengthen victim protection and the handling of reports.
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