Jewish Museum Cuts Ties with Jens Hoffmann Following Sexual Harassment Investigation

Jens Hoffmann. Photo: Robert Adler.

The Jewish Museum in New York has terminated its working relationship with curator Jens Hoffmann, who was accused of sexual harassment by members of the institution’s staff in November, Andy Battaglia of Artnews reports. When the museum first learned of the allegations, Hoffmann was suspended from all the projects he had been working on. Following a two-week review of the allegations, the museum decided to end its affiliation with the curator.

On Monday, December 18, the museum issued the following statement: “The Jewish Museum has completed its review of the allegations regarding Jens Hoffmann and on December 17, 2017, terminated its relationship with him. As this is an internal and confidential matter, we will not be sharing further details.”

Hoffmann served as the deputy director for exhibitions and programs for the institution from 2012 to 2016. He stepped down from the role to pursue other projects and to work as coartistic director of the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Exhibition for Contemporary Art, but he left the post in November, several months before the opening of the event. Shortly after, the Jewish Museum announced that it was opening an investigation into his behavior, which sparked a number of other organizations to suspend Hoffmann from projects, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, and Kadist. He was terminated from his position as curator of the 2019 edition of the Honolulu Biennial as well. When Hoffmann first found out about the accusations, his lawyer, Lance Gotko, said, “He can firmly say he has never subjected anyone at the museum to sexual harassment.”

[Update:] In response to the Jewish Museum’s statement, Hoffmann issued the following to Artnews on Tuesday, December 19:

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January 16, 2018

United States Artists Announces 2018 Fellows

Still from Moonlight, 2016, based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, a 2018 USA fellow. Courtesy: United States Artists.

United States Artists (USA), the Chicago-based organization established by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations in 2006 to promote contemporary artists, announced today that forty-five artists and collectives, working across nine disciplines, have been awarded fellowships. Each recipient will reveive $50,000 in recognition of their creative accomplishments and in support of their artistic practices.

“Our 2018 USA Fellows represent the remarkable breadth and depth of the American cultural landscape", said United States Artists Board Chair Steven H. Oliver. “We are thrilled to be able to make these awards possible and to provide a windfall to help support artists so that they can continue to be keepers of our collective humanity.” Among this year’s recipients are artists Abigail DeVille, Vanessa German, Dread Scott, and Cauleen Smith; choreographers and perfromers Oguri, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Amara Tabor-Smith; <span>playwright </span><span>Tarell Alvin McCraney;</span> and writers Molly Brown, Lucas Mann, and Fred Moten.

USA’s 2018 fellows were selected by a panel of experts in the disciplines of architecture and design, craft, dance, media, music, theater and performance, traditional arts, visual art, and writing then approved by the organization's board. They were drawn from a peer-nominated pool of over 500 applicants. To date, USA has distributed over $22 million to a diverse group of more than 500 artists and collaboratives.

The full list of USA’s 2018 fellows are:

January 16, 2018

Joseph Seipel Named Interim Director of Richmond’s Institute for Contemporary Art

Joseph H. Seipel. Photo: Lindy Keast Rodman for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond announced today that Joseph H. Seipel, the dean emeritus of the VCU School of Arts, has agreed to serve as interim director of the school’s new Institute for Contemporary Art, slated to open in April. Seipel assumes leadership of the institution after former director Lisa Freiman revealed that she was stepping down as director to focus on scholarly projects at VCU last week.

“I look forward to working with the energetic and highly professional members of the ICA staff who already are well on their way to opening this world-class institute,” Seipel said. The arts professional, who retired from VCU in 2016, was an early advocate of the ICA, serving as the cochair of the committee that chose architect Steven Holl to design the building. Seipel also contributed to planning and fundraising efforts for the arts venue. Previously, Seipel served as the interim dean of the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and as a vice president at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

January 16, 2018

Markus Lüpertz Sculpture Stolen

Markus Lüpertz. Photo: DPA.

Markus Lüpertz’s Athena, a bronze sculpture that weighs more than five hundred pounds and is estimated to be worth several hundred thousands of euros, was taken from a foundry in Düsseldorf sometime between January 9 and January 11, reports the Westfälische Nachrichten. “He was shocked,” said the foundry’s owner of the artist. "Lüpertz has been our customer for forty years and one of my best friends. We poured hundreds of works for him.”

This is not the first time the artist has been a victim to thieves. Three years ago, around thirty pieces of art—graphics, watercolors, drawings, and sculptures—were looted from his studio in Teltow, Brandenburg.

January 16, 2018

Artist Mohammed “Habshe” Yossef Arrested by Israeli Authorities

Mohammed “Habshe” Yossef. Photo: Decolonize This Place.

Palestinian artist Mohammed “Habshe” Yossef, a member of the art collectives Decolonize This Place and MTL+, was arrested by Israeli military on January 9, report Andrew Ross and Yates McKee of Hyperallergic. He was taken from his apartment—located in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp, where’s he’s a community organizer—on the morning of January 9 at 2 AM. His partner, Randa Shaheen, said “The whole thing took fifteen minutes. They surrounded him in the living room so that I could not see him, and they started photographing the entire apartment. There was no explanation, no documents, nothing. To my every question they responded shakeit [or “shut up” in Hebrew]. They told me to bring his socks and boots, and then they took him. That was it.”

“The arrest of Habshe is an assault on the transformative potential and role of art as a practice of freedom,” said MTL +. “Israel understands that engaged artists and their ideas are more dangerous than bullets because they penetrate the soft core of its propaganda machine while bypassing state institutions, and they make new social relations on the pathway to liberation.”

Habshe’s arrest seems to be part of a larger plan by Israeli authorities to capture important members of “popular committees” that orchestrate regular protests and community care in Palestinian neighborhoods frequently attacked by Israeli military. Habshe is just one among many people throughout the West Bank who’ve been detained: for instance, sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamini, a well-known community organizer in the village of Nabi Saleh, outside Ramallah, was arrested for allegedly slapping an Israel Defense Forces soldier. Her associate at the Aida Youth Center (and chair of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee), Munther Amira, was captured towards the end of December 2017. Raids by the military on camps and villages have left numerous people injured or dead (Aida and Nabi Saleh’s committees are have been specially targeted because they operate separately from the Palestinian Authority, which is not trusted by the populations it claims to stand up for.) The youth center’s Mohammed Abu Srour says the “preemptive attacks” are part of a larger plan by the Israeli government to destroy on-the-ground Palestinian resistance in the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Habeshe, along with Amira and Abu Srour, have been in charge of cultural programming at various social institutions, such as the Aida Youth Center, for the last ten years.

January 16, 2018

Arts Professionals Accuse Ghent Museum of Exhibiting Unauthenticated Works

A group of collectors, curators, and scholars have penned an open letter in protest of an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent in Belgium. In the document, which was first published by the Art Newspaper, the arts professionals criticize twenty-six works attributed to members of the Russian avant-garde that have allegedly never been seen before and claim that the show is “highly questionable.”

Titled “From Bosch to Tuymans: A Vital Story,” the exhibition, which opened on October 20, 2017 and runs through February 28, 2018, is billed as a revised presentation of the museum’s permanent collection. According to its website, the show is a “new thematic display of two centuries of Western art, featuring unseen additions to the collection and new work created by three contemporary artists.” Yet, the signatories of the open letter argue that works attributed to artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich, which are on display despite not being part of the museum’s collection, are not mentioned in any known scholarship and lack provenance information. The pieces were loaned from the Dieleghem Foundation, a charity started by the Brussels-based Russian businessman and art collector Igor Toporovski. The works will also be showcased in an exhibition of the art patron’s collection that will be staged at the museum at the end of the year.

The authorship of the works was first called into question when the museum did not publish a catalogue and did not provide an exhibition history or any information related to their provenance when the show opened. Among the signatories of the letter are Vivian Endicott Barnett, who wrote the catalogues raisonnés for Kandinsky and Alexej von Jawlensky; Aeksandra Shatskikh, who is the author of several books on Malevich; and Natalia Murray, a Courtauld Institute of Art curator, who organized the exhibition “Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932,” presented by the Royal Academy last year.

January 16, 2018

Several High-Profile Artists Are Competing for Major Sculpture Commissions in San Francisco

Chakaia Booker, one of the artists in the running for the public sculpture projects in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Arts Commission and the Treasure Island Development Authority are overseeing a $50 million residential and commercial redevelopment project that will unfold throughout three hundred acres. On this large plot will be a public arts space, where a number of high-profile artists—such as Pae White, Ai Weiwei, and Chakaia Booker—are in the running to create the first three public artworks for the area, reports Gareth Harris of the Art Newspaper. The project is being funded by the “1 percent for art” initiative, which mandates that private developers save 1 percent of their construction costs for public art.

The sculptures, scheduled for completion by 2020, will be installed at the Yerba Buena Hilltop Park in addition to the Waterfront Plaza and Building One Plaza on Treasure Island. Booker, White, and Weiwei are competing for the Building One Plaza project, budgeted at $1 million; Weiwei, Jorge Pardo, and Antony Gormley have stakes in the $2 million Waterfront Plaza commission; and Booker, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Andy Goldsworthy are on the shortlist for piece that will be put up at Yerba Buena Hilltop Park.

“It is anticipated that proposals will be submitted in the spring,” says the San Francisco Arts Commission in a statement, “and will be placed on public view on Treasure Island as well as elsewhere in the city for comment and feedback before being voted upon by the Treasure Island Development Authority.”

January 15, 2018

Jan Baum (1928–2017)

Jan Baum in 2007. Photo: Carlos Chavez for the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles dealer Jan Baum, who helped bring the gallery scene to La Brea Avenue, died on December 25, 2017, after suffering a cerebral edema, Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times reports. Baum opened the first gallery on the avenue in 1981, and within five years dozens more followed. She also operated Baum-Silverman Gallery in West Hollywood, which launched in 1977. While the arts space was only open three years, Baum and Iris Silverman, the late private dealer who specialized in African and Oceanic art, exhibited artists such as Betye Saar, a pioneer of the Black Arts Movement who continued to show with Baum until the late 1990s.

“She was open to women artists, to the political thing too,” Saar said. “She had the knack to mix contemporary art with ethnic art and it felt right. . .It was very open and friendly—like showing your work with friends.” Peter Plagens, the New York–based artist and critic, who has written for Artforum, added that she was “a steady rudder for the L.A. art world.”

Over the course of her career, Baum organized shows by a variety of artists including Jim Morphesis and Mel Ruben as well as Saar’s daughters, Alison Saar and Lezley Saar. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1928, Baum studied medicine at the University of Wisconsin before she switched to art history. While attending school, she met her husband Richard Baum, and in 1952, they moved to Los Angeles. When asked about opening up her first venue with her friend Silverman, Baum said that it was “destiny.”

January 15, 2018

Activist Group Holds Sackler Family Accountable for the Opioid Crisis

Nan Goldin, Pain/Sackler, Royal College of Art, London, 2017.

Nan Goldin, along with a new activist group she founded called P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), launched an online petition on Friday calling for the Sackler family and their private company Purdue Pharma to atone for their involvement in the opioid crisis by funding addiction education and setting up treatment centers and public dispensers of Narcan “on every corner in America.” The Sackler family, known for its philanthropic foundation that has made large donations to arts institutions across the globe, acquired their wealth through the sale of OxyContin, a highly addictive prescription drug.

Goldin writes about establishing P.A.I.N. in this month’s issue of Artforum, in which the artist confronts her own experiences with addiction. “I learned that the Sackler family, whose name I knew from museums and galleries, were responsible for the epidemic,” Goldin wrote. “This family formulated, marketed, and distributed OxyContin. I decided to make the private public by calling them to task.”

P.A.I.N. circulated the change.org petition through its Instagram account, @sacklerpain, and is using the hashtag #ShameOnSackler to hold the institution accountable. “We intend to put pressure on museums, art spaces, and educational institutions to refuse future donations from the Sacklers,” the petition reads. “We intend to hold the Sacklers accountable, and put social and political pressure on them to respond meaningfully to this crisis.”

January 15, 2018

Tate Severs Ties with Anthony d’Offay After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Tate in London and the National Galleries of Scotland have parted ways with Anthony d’Offay after the London-based art dealer and collector was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, according to The Guardian. D’Offay denies the allegations, which date from 1997 to 2004 and were made by three women with careers in the art world. He also denies knowledge of a police investigation concerning an allegation of malicious communication.

D’Offay, who is seventy-eight, sold nearly his entire collection of contemporary art—valued at over $200 million—to both Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland in 2008 for the original price he paid, an act of philanthropy that Tate director Nicholas Serota said resulted in “one of the most generous gifts that has ever been made to museums in this country.” The donated artworks are part of the dealer’s Artist Rooms project, an educational initiative he will no longer be apart of.  

“In light of these allegations, Tate and NGS have decided that it is appropriate to suspend any further contact with Mr. D’Offay until these matters have been clarified,” Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland said in a joint statement. “The work of Tate and NGS is underpinned by values of fairness, equality, and respect and the right to work free of sexual harassment. We expect these values to be demonstrated in the behavior of everyone who is involved in our organizations.”