The Jewish Museum has announced that it has terminated its relationship with curator Jens Hoffmann following its investigation of sexual harassment allegations recently brought forth by staff members. Hoffmann was placed on suspension earlier this month in light of these allegations, after working with the museum for nearly five years. The Jewish Museum has not provided any additional information about these claims.
“The Jewish Museum has completed its review of the allegations regarding Jens Hoffmann and on December 17, 2017, terminated its relationship with him,” a spokesperson for the museum told Hyperallergic in an email. “As this is an internal and confidential matter, we will not be sharing further details.”
News of the allegations has had far-reaching consequences, as Hoffmann has been involved in a variety of projects with other organizations. The Honolulu Biennial Foundation, which had tapped him to curate its 2019 edition, announced the day after the Jewish Museum suspended Hoffmann that it would no longer be working with him. The Kadist Foundation, where Hoffmann serves as an advisor, suspended him — pending the outcome of the Jewish Museum’s investigation — as did the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which placed him on an unpaid leave of absence. Editors at The Exhibitionist, a journal Hoffmann founded in 2009, also announced their immediate resignation.
Hyperallergic reached out to the Kadist Foundation as well as MOCAD and will continue to update this story as it develops. Hoffmann’s lawyer, Lance Gotko, told Artnews shortly after news of the sexual harassment claims surfaced that “He can firmly say he has never subjected anyone at the museum to sexual harassment.”
Update, 12/18/2017, 10:45pm: In response to the Jewish Museum’s decision, Hoffmann sent Hyperallergic the following statement:
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.
Update, 12/20/2018, 10am: Artist Martha Rosler, whom Hoffman cites in his statement, sent Hyperallergic the following 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.
Hyperallergic is committed to reporting on sexual harassment in the art world. If you have a story about personal or institutional abuse in our field, please write to Claire Voon at [email protected]