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The Swiss Institute. Photo: Nicholas Venezia. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects.

Cultural Figures Call for Swiss Institute to Address Assault Allegations Against Tobias Madison

A group of artists and writers are urging the Swiss Institute in New York to respond to recent criminal charges that have been filed against Tobias Madison, a Swiss artist whose work is currently on view in the exhibition “life and limbs.” According to the Art Newspaper, Madison was arrested on March 7 after he allegedly hit and strangled his ex-girlfriend in December 2018. The artist has since been charged with two counts of assault and one count of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and is expected to appear in New York Criminal Court for a hearing on October 16.

A “Letter of Concern,” which was sent to the group show’s curator Anna-Sophie Berger, the nonprofit’s board and staff members, and to the other artists in the exhibition on September 30, reads: “While a verdict has not yet been reached in court, we take these accusations seriously, and we believe a conversation about them must take place. How should we, as a community, address these kinds of troubling claims? We defer to you. Ignoring them is not the answer.”

Kate Wolf, a writer and editor who resides in Los Angeles and is a friend of the woman who made the allegations against Madison, organized the letter, which was signed by Naama Arad, Domenick Ammirati, Jennifer Boysen, Seung-Min Lee, Max Maslansky, Jillian McManemin, Ariana Reines, and Rebecca Watson Horn, among others. The letter does not call for Madison’s work to be removed. Wolf told the Art Newspaper that she wants there to be a dialogue over the domestic abuse allegations. “To me the most interesting conversation is knowing someone has done bad things and still looking at their work, but maybe looking with those things in mind.”

Due to the pending litigation, Madison and his lawyers were not able to respond to requests for comment. The institute’s director, Simon Castets, replied to Wolf in an email, which was shared with Artnews, on October 8. Castets wrote: “Swiss Institute understands the gravity of these accusations, but we are not able to comment or respond regarding an ongoing legal case. We respect the rights of all parties involved. Therefore, we will let the courts and the authorities determine the facts.” Madison has yet to enter a plea deal for the charges, which are all considered misdemeanors. 

Featuring works by Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Lutz Bacher, Sarah Charlesworth, COBRA, Davey, Manfred Deix, Benjamin Hirte, Moschino, Kayode Ojo, Meret Oppenheim, Lucia Elena Průša, Marija Tavčar, and Rosemarie Trockel, “life and limbs” is the fourth exhibition in the institute’s Architecture and Design Series. The show, which grapples with “the limits of what a body can consume, process, reach and become,” closes on December 29.