The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) has suspended an exhibition of work by Jon Rafman, a high-profile artist from Montreal whose work appeared in last year’s Venice Biennale. Over the past decade, Rafman has been considered one of the most important artists of his generation for video-based work that explores the darkest corners of the internet. His 2014 video work Mainsqueeze, which includes footage of a woman killing a live crawfish, has been widely exhibited.
Rafman’s show, which featured two video works Disasters Under the Sun (2019) and Poor Magic (2017), has been suspended “until further notice,” according to a message posted last week on the museum’s website. Asked about the development, a spokesperson for the museum told ARTnews on Friday, “For the time being, the MAC won’t comment any further on the matter.”
The museum reopened to the public in late June after a temporary closure due to the coronavirus. Rafman’s exhibition opened on July 4 and was scheduled to close on September 6, according the Montreal Gazette, which first reported the news of the suspension. The museum also appears to have deleted the exhibition page for Rafman’s show, which now redirects to a page that reads, “Programming Change: Jon Rafman Exhibition.” That page adds that “[a]nother exhibition is in the works and will be unveiled shortly.”
As chronicled by the Gazette, the suspension of the show comes after an Instagram account named @surviving_the_artworld began publishing accounts from women regarding what they called Rafman’s “emotional abuse, sexual abuse, [and] predatory behaviour” toward them.
In one account, Emily Cadotte said that when she was finishing a studio arts program at Concordia University in Montreal in 2014, she matched with Rafman on Tinder. She immediately told him that she “wasn’t interested in any kind of relationship because a close friend of mine had been hooking up with him (at the time she hadn’t reported any abuses to me, only sort of bizarre sexual escapades) so I didn’t feel right about encounters that exceeded platonic.”
Cadotte told Rafman that she was “a fan of his work,” after which point he “offered instead that we could get together for a drink at his studio and talk about his practice.” The following evening, Rafman invited Cadotte to his studio, which she realized upon arrival was also his living quarters. In her account of the event, Cadotte wrote on Instagram, “Before we even sat down, not five minutes into me arriving, he looked at me and said ‘I think it’s clear we’re both attracted to each other’ and pulled me in for a very aggressive kiss.”
The two then had “unprotected sex that I can only describe as hurried, sweaty and uncomfortable,” Cadotte wrote. “I didn’t fear for my safety and knew I could have left, but because of the clout around him I wanted his approval.”
On Thursday evening, Rafman tweeted a link to a statement responding to Cadotte’s allegations as well as another by Anne-Marie Trépanier and a poster on the Instgram account who remained anonymous. “Last week, intimate details of my life from 5-6 years ago were published online,” the statement reads. “The stories came as a shock and made me reflect on my own experience of the past.”
Rafman’s statement continued, “Until now, I was not informed of these grievances. I was not aware that these relationships were so upsetting for the women who came forward. It is a source of uttermost regret. I want to stress that I always engaged in relationships that were consensual, and certainly never entered any interaction ill-intentioned. However, it is clear that these interactions were deeply distressing for the individuals concerned, and I want to sincerely apologize for any emotional pain that I have caused.”
In reporting the news of the museum suspension, the Montreal Gazette also reported that Rafman’s Montreal gallery, Bradley Ertaskiran, had stopped representing the artist. On Friday the gallery did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ARTnews.