Employees at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels accused the museum’s director, Michel Draguet, of regularly making “disgusting” remarks that came across as both “racist and sexist,” according to Les Grenades, a project by the Belgian public service broadcaster RTBF, which offers “topical content from a gender and feminist prism.”
“We are faced with someone who is stuck in a past century,” an employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told RTBF. The comments come after an open letter, signed by 31 of the museum’s 176 employees, was released December 16. In the letter, employees complained of “appalling working conditions” at the museum.
Since then, six employees have reached out to Les Grenades-RTBF and anonymously detailed the director’s alleged behavior, including the use of sexism as a form of intimidation.
“Employees who are labeled as a little too feministic are regularly humiliated,” one person said, and are barred from using “politically correct” language when writing or discussing museum affairs and exhibitions.
Several employees told RTBF described frustrations with the current Picasso exhibition at the museum, which they described as problematic due to recent reevaluations of the artist’s legacy that point to misogyny.
Female employees claimed that conversations with Draguet teetered on the inappropriate, and that they often felt uncomfortable because his messages or comments appeared “flirty.”
One employee complained that Draguet had once referred to an artist as “another pédale,” a derogatory French euphemism for homosexual. Another, when referencing the amount of people that had been fired or quit their jobs because of the director, said the museum was like the Titanic: “People are falling one after the other.”
Draguet has denied any inappropriate behavior and says he doesn’t recognize himself in the accusations. “On the other hand,” he told RTBF in response to the allegations, “I often use humor to improve the conviviality of meetings. I really don’t see what this is referring to. Especially since it is rare that I speak to employees without copying their department heads and/or my secretariat. “
Draguet, who became director in 2005, is currently seeking his fourth term as the director of Belgium’s Royal Museum of The Fine Arts.