Museum director of S.M.A.K. Ghent accused of toxic leadership

Ten employees of the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent have filed a complaint against director Philippe Van Cauteren. The External Service for Prevention and Protection at Work has been investigating possible psychologically problematic behaviour since the end of 2023, De Standaard reported on Friday.

Some staff under Van Cauteren have accused him of toxic behaviour including complaints of micromanagement and unsustainable workload. Eight complaints have been submitted to the prevention service of the City of Ghent, and two more to the Reporting Center of the Flemish government. At least three of those who complained no longer work at the museum. There are no insinuations of sexual misconduct, and no complaints have been filed with the police.

The Ghent Alderman for Culture, Sami Souguir (Open VLD), confirms that an external firm has been appointed to conduct an extensive investigation. Van Cauteren himself said that he is fully cooperating. "I look forward to the final report with curiosity and commitment. It is important that choices are subsequently made based on the well-being of everyone associated with the S.M.A.K. Can I stay on? That is a question for the board of directors."

Van Cauteren, who has been the director of S.M.A.K. for 20 years, will remain in his position for the time being.

#FlandersNewsService | Philippe Van Cauteren (centre) speaks during opening ceremony of Venice Biennale exhibition in 2017 © PHOTO SAFIN HAMID / AFP

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