Dec 06 2017

Organizations Cut Ties with Jens Hoffmann Following Sexual Harassment Allegations

by HG Masters

Jens Hoffmann is the art world’s latest high-profile figure to be accused of sexual improprieties. Image courtesy Honolulu Biennial Foundation.

One of the world’s most active contemporary art curators is the latest high-profile figure to be accused of sexual improprieties. On November 30, staff members at the Jewish Museum in New York reportedly made allegations of sexual harassment against Jens Hoffmann, the museum’s director of special exhibitions and public programs, and deputy director of exhibitions and programs from 2012 until 2016. Upon the release of this news, several organizations subsequently cut or suspend ties with the curator. The Honolulu Biennial Foundation, which in September had named Hoffmann one of three curators for its sophomore edition in 2019, terminated his involvement on December 4. The following day, the Kadist Foundation of San Francisco and Paris suspended Hoffmann from his advisory role pending the Jewish Museum’s investigation, according to ArtNews. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) has done the same, putting Hoffmann on an unpaid leave of absence from his current role as curator-at-large, despite MOCAD executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder’s earlier statement to Artnet.com that in four years of work with Hoffmann, MOCAD had received no complaints against him. The Jewish Museum suspended the curator shortly after the complaints were filed, stating that they were investigating the case, and on December 17, officially terminated his contract with the institution. 

Hoffmann’s lawyer Lance Gotko has told media outlets reporting on the developments that Hoffmann “flatly denies” having sexually harassed anyone at the Jewish Museum, and in a statement published on ArtNews’ website, Hoffmann declared that “I have never knowingly or purposefully behaved in a bullying, intimidating, harassing, or sexually inappropriate manner.” However, rumors that such allegations would be forthcoming were circulating in the art world of the United States even before the Thanksgiving holiday. Hoffmann’s sudden departure on November 29 from the Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, where he was co-artistic director of the inaugural July 2018 edition, suggested to many watching that something larger was about to break. Front’s CEO Fred Bidwell had not specified a reason for the organization’s change in leadership in his statements at the time of the announcement. Hoffmann, on the other hand, said his split from Front was his decision, telling ArtNews via an email that he “personally could not identify with the directions it was taking.”

Hoffmann has been working in curatorial positions at international institutions since the mid-1990s, and has curated numerous biennials, exhibitions and projects over the years. He is among a growing number of prominent figures in the art world who have been embroiled in sexual harassment allegations, including former Artforum co-publisher Knight Landesman; former executive director of the Armory Show, Benjamin Genocchio; and photographer Raghubir Singh.

HG Masters is editor-at-large of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.