The Studio Museum in Harlem has cut ties with David Adjaye after three women accused the British-Ghanaian architect of sexual assault and harassment. The institution, which enlisted Adjaye to design its long-anticipated new home on West 125th Street, will work with executive architect Cooper Robertson and Adjaye Associates’s New York team, with Adjaye himself stepping back from the project, according to the New York Times.
“The Board of Trustees of The Studio Museum in Harlem is concerned to learn of the allegations being made against David Adjaye and takes this matter with the greatest of seriousness,” a Studio Museum spokesperson said in a statement shared with Hyperallergic. “The actions being alleged are counter to the founding principles and values of the Studio Museum.”
Adjaye told the New York Times that “the prospect of the accusations against [him] tarnishing the museum and creating a distraction is too much to bear.”
The news that the Studio Museum and Adjaye are parting ways comes in the wake of similar announcements by institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States. The UK Holocaust Memorial in London confirmed that it will no longer work with the architect, who also resigned from his roles as architectural advisor to the mayor of London and as trustee of the Serpentine Gallery. In Lincoln, Massachusetts, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum put its plans to show Adjaye’s sculpture “Asaase” (2021) this fall on “indefinite hold.” And Adjaye Associates will no longer be involved in plans for a new building of the Multnomah County Library in Portland, per a July 5 notice on its website.
The accusations in question, detailed in a Financial Times report published July 4, were brought forward by three anonymized women who were former employees of Adjaye’s firm. Under the pseudonyms Maya, Gene, and Dunia, they alleged that the famed architect engaged in various forms of sexual harassment, ranging from coercion to assault. They also said that Adjaye failed to pay them in a timely manner and accused him of discriminating against Black women.
Adjaye has denied allegations of wrongdoing. In a statement shared with Hyperallergic by Kendal Advisory, a crisis management firm representing the architect, he called the accusations “untrue.”
“I am ashamed to say that I entered into relationships which though entirely consensual, blurred the boundaries between my professional and personal lives,” Adjaye stated. “I am deeply sorry. To restore trust and accountability, I will be immediately seeking professional help in order to learn from these mistakes to ensure that they never happen again.”
Other museums and cultural organizations have yet to announce a break with the architect, but some have issued public statements acknowledging the allegations. The Counterpublic Triennial in St. Louis, which is presenting a sculptural installation by Adjaye at the Griot Museum of Black History, said it would “assess the best next steps in the days to come in dialogue with our community.”
At Princeton University in New Jersey, a new Adjaye-designed art museum is slated to open in late 2024. A statement shared with Hyperallergic indicated that the museum, for which construction began in 2021, would forge ahead as planned at this stage.
“We find the nature of the accusations enormously troubling,” the museum’s statement said. “With construction so far advanced, most of our work with Adjaye is behind us. We have a responsibility to all the people involved in this project and all those who will benefit from it to see it to completion, and we remain committed to shaping a museum that is welcoming, engaging, and educational for all.”