Jens Hoffmann Responds to Termination by Jewish Museum Following Alleged Sexual Harassment [Updated]

Jens Hoffmann.

After the Jewish Museum announced the termination of curator Jens Hoffmann following a review of allegations of sexual harassment, Hoffmann responded with a statement sent to ARTnews calling the museum’s pronouncement and process into question and stating a commitment to women’s rights. “I have never knowingly or purposefully behaved in a bullying, intimidating, harassing, or sexually inappropriate manner,” Hoffmann wrote.

The Jewish Museum has said only that an unspecified number of staffers came forward with allegations of sexual harassment experienced during Hoffmann’s tenure, which began in 2012. In response to questions about the allegations on December 4—after a number of other institutions announced suspensions of Hoffmann pending the Jewish Museum’s review—the institution said, “The Jewish Museum is conducting a thorough investigation, in consultation with outside counsel. As this is an ongoing confidential investigation, it would not be appropriate for us to comment.”

Following the announcement of Hoffmann’s termination on Monday, the museum issued a statement about its two-week review reading, “The Jewish Museum has completed its review of the allegations regarding Jens Hoffmann and on December 17, 2017, terminated its relationship with him. As this is an internal and confidential matter, we will not be sharing further details.”

Hoffmann’s response to the termination, which was emailed to ARTnews late last night, is presented in full below.

The practice of making exhibitions and working in museums is a collaborative and challenging exercise, one that I am passionate about and committed to. Over the years, I have encountered differences of opinion with colleagues in the process of curating at different institutions, which is a normal part of almost any large project in any context. However, I have never knowingly or purposefully behaved in a bullying, intimidating, harassing, or sexually inappropriate manner.

Still today, almost two weeks after a museum at which I was employed brought to my and the public’s attention that allegations of harassment have been made against me and that an investigation was under way, neither my lawyer nor I have been given any details about the nature of the allegations or who made them. We know that the allegations will not be disclosed, yet damage has been done and there is no other option for either party but to sever the relationship and go our separate ways.

I feel it is urgent at this particular moment to say that if I have ever personally or professionally made anybody uncomfortable or caused offense, I deeply and profusely apologize and regret it profoundly. Let it be clear: harassment, bullying, and intimidation are unacceptable, and I will take extra care in this regard in all my actions going forward.
I have long been committed to the public discourse regarding women’s rights, and have worked with many women artists over the years whose work specifically focuses on feminist subjects and bringing about an end to patriarchy. In particular I would like to mention my twenty-year-long working relationship with Martha Rosler, an iconic radical feminist artist, whose retrospective I was planning to curate in 2018 and with whom I have worked on more than a dozen exhibitions. I continue to stand one hundred percent behind my exhibitions, projects, and texts, as well as my conviction that we must end the systemic harassment and exploitation of women.

Reached by email, Rosler said that Hoffmann will not be working on her 2018 retrospective at the Jewish Museum, which is still in the planning stages. She said in a statement:

I believe that harassment of any kind is unacceptable and deeply unethical. The systemic abuse of power by people in positions of authority represents a betrayal of trust. It occurs in institutions from the lowest to the highest, but crucially, it disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The reckoning that we as a society have finally set in motion, thanks to the power of the #MeToo movement and women’s forceful testimonies, is long overdue. Although I have never had cause to question Jens Hoffmann’s conduct in my own personal or professional interactions with him throughout the years, I support the Jewish Museum’s decision to take this matter seriously and to safeguard its employees. I stand with anyone who has been affected by abusive or exploitative behavior and am grateful for the courage of those who have come forward to report aggression and harassment. 

Update, 9:40 p.m.: A statement from Martha Rosler has been added to this post.

Andrew Russeth contributed reporting.

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