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Jewish Museum Investigating Sexual Harassment Claims Against Curator Jens Hoffmann [UPDATED]

The institution has suspended all current projects with Hoffmann, who served as its director of special exhibitions and public programs.

Jens Hoffmann in 2014 (photo via Wikipedia)

The Jewish Museum has announced it will open an investigation into curator Jens Hoffmann after staff members, late last week, accused him of sexual harassment. The institution has suspended all current projects with Hoffmann, who served as its director of special exhibitions and public programs, as ARTnews first reported.

“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,” a spokesperson from the museum told Hyperallergic. “In light of this information, we have suspended all current projects with him while we review the allegations.”

Working with the Jewish Museum since 2012, Hoffmann was its deputy director for exhibitions and programs for four years. In August 2016, he stepped down from that role so he could focus on projects with other institutions, as the museum’s director Claudia Gould explained at the time. The museum spokesperson said that the nature of Hoffmann’s affiliation with the institution has been evolving, although he had been scheduled to work on an upcoming exhibition.

One of those projects Hoffmann turned his attention to was the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, for which Hoffmann served as co-artistic director. Just last week, the organization suddenly announced his departure and provided no additional comment. In an email to artnet News, Hoffmann said he had decided to withdraw to focus on other projects, finding that he “personally could not identify with the directions it was taking.”

The Jewish Museum did not respond to Hyperallergic’s inquiries into further details about the sexual harassment allegations; we will update this story as it develops.

Update, 12/5/2017: According to ARTnews, the Honolulu Biennial Foundation, which had tapped Hoffmann to curate its 2019 edition, has cut ties with him in light of the accusations of sexual harassment.

The Kadist Foundation, an arts organization active in Paris and San Francisco that has employed Hoffmann as an advisor, has also suspended all projects he was involved in, pending the outcome of the Jewish Museum’s investigation.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, meanwhile, where Hoffmann is the curator-at-large, is aware of the current situation but has not made any decisions or changes.

Update, 12/6/2017: The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit has suspended Hoffmann from all programs at the institution. Director Elysia Borowy-Reeder said in a statement, “Jens is on unpaid leave of absence until this is settled to our satisfaction. We learned of this only yesterday and the board needed time to process and discuss. It’s effective as of today.”

Update, 12/8/2017: Editors at The Exhibitionist, a “journal by curators, for curators” that Hoffmann founded in 2009, have announced their immediate resignation. Managing editor Liz Rae Heise-Glass, editor-at-large Piper Marshall, and senior editor Julian Myers-Szupinska co-signed the following statement, which they shared on Facebook.

“Following the allegations of harassment made against our founding editor Jens Hoffmann, we have chosen to resign our editorial roles at The Exhibitionist, effective immediately. In our view, it would be incongruous to continue to commission, edit and publish as normal in these circumstances. We wish to make clear that we do not condone sexual harassment, intimidation, or abuse in any context, and that we support those who are coming forward in this profound moment of reckoning.

In parting, we also wish to affirm the work that has been done in the pages of The Exhbitionist since it was founded in 2009. A journal, no less than an exhibition, is a collective and social affair, and exceeds the efford of any one person. It is most of all the manifestation of those who have written for it, many of whom are friends, colleagues and role models. We are humbled that they entrusted us with their ideas. We also recognize our brilliant designer, Jon Sueda, our magnificent copy editor, Lindsey Westbrook, and the journal’s past editors, Tara McDowell, Chelsea Haines and Lumi Tan.

We believe that The Exhibitionist has served a vital purpose and hope that its legacy will lie in the important writing and thinking it has made public.

Looking forward,

Liz Rae Heise-Glass
Piper Marshall
Julian Myers-Szupinska

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