The Jewish Museum in New York has suspended all current projects with curator Jens Hoffmann as a result of sexual harassment allegations brought forward by museum staff members late last week.
A statement sent to ARTnews after questioning about the matter reads: “A number of Jewish Museum staff members came forward on November 30, 2017, with allegations of sexual harassment by Jens Hoffmann during his tenure at the Museum. In light of this information, we have suspended all current projects with him while we review the allegations.”
Hoffmann was the Jewish Museum’s deputy director for exhibitions and programs from 2012 to 2016 and has served since as director of special exhibitions and public programs. The news follows the announcement last week that Hoffmann was “departing” his role as co-artistic director of Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. No explanation was offered by Front at the time of the announcement, but Hoffmann has since suggested it was a matter of work-load and differences of opinion as to artistic direction. Queried after news of the Jewish Museum suspension, a spokesperson for Front International said the triennial has no further comment to add.
Elysia Borowy-Reeder, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit—for which Hoffmann currently works as chief curator at large—said the museum is aware of the situation. “Our hearts go out to all the parties involved,” she said. “Jens has been working with MOCAD for four years, and we have had no complaints.” (A day later, on Tuesday, a statement from Borowy-Reeder announced that Hoffmann had been placed on unpaid leave “until this is settled to our satisfaction.We learned of the allegations only yesterday and the board needed time to process and discuss.”)
Reached early Monday afternoon, Lance Gotko, a lawyer representing Hoffmann, told ARTnews that Hoffmann had been notified last week by the Jewish Museum that a number of staff members had come forward with information involving his tenure there, but that the nature of the information was not made clear. “He has not been informed about the nature of any allegations and he does not know the nature of those allegations,” Gotko said. After Hoffmann learned about the sexual harassment claims by way of reporting on Monday, Gotko added, speaking for his client: “He can firmly say he has never subjected anyone at the museum to sexual harassment.”
Later in the day, the Honolulu Biennial sent a statement to ARTnews declaring it had cut ties with Hoffmann, who was tapped in September to curate its next edition in 2019. “As of today, December 4,” the statement said, “we have terminated his relationship with Honolulu Biennial Foundation and he will no longer be involved in planning the 2019 edition of the biennial.”
On Tuesday, Kadist, a foundation with hubs in Paris and San Francisco for which Hoffmann has worked as an advisor, issued a statement saying it has suspended all projects with him until the Jewish Museum’s review of the allegations is resolved. “Jens has been an important Kadist advisor for the last 10 years,” the statement reads, “a collaboration that can continue only subject to a fully satisfactory outcome of the investigation, as Kadist holds all employees and collaborators to the highest standards when it comes to sexual misconduct.”
Update, 1:35 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comment from the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and Hoffmann’s lawyer.
Update, 8:45 p.m.: News of the Honolulu Biennial’s split with Hoffmann has been added.
Update, 12/5/17, 7:15 p.m.: Notice of a subsequent suspension by Kadist has been appended.
Update, 12/6/17, 9:45 a.m.: News of MOCAD’s suspension was added.
Alex Greenberger contributed reporting.