Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Departed Co-Director of FRONT: Triennial, Who Left Because of 'Creative Differences,' Suspended by Jewish Museum After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 11:22 AM

  • Photo: Robert Adler, courtesy New York Jewish Museum.

News last week that Jens Hoffmann had departed as co-director of FRONT: Triennial, the impending major art exhibition in Cleveland that debuts next year, sent minor shockwaves through the art community. FRONT, after all, is a major undertaking in a crowded landscape, had only recently released its first confirmed projects and participants, and is set to open in July of 2018.

"We've made a change in the artistic leadership of FRONT," said Fred Bidwell, one of the founders and organizers, in a vague statement to the Plain Dealer about the reasons for Hoffmann's departure. "I really don't have a comment on the background of this other than to say that Michelle Grabner has been involved in the project from the very beginning. She's brilliant, beloved and doing a great job, so we'll have no pause or blip in the leadership of the project, or our plans."

Hoffmann, for his part, told Artnet News that the split was over creative differences: "I have decided to withdraw from FRONT to focus on my other projects, such as the 2nd Honolulu Biennial in 2019, my role as chief curator at MOCA Detroit, my work for the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco, and a number of other exhibitions taking place over the next years.

"Putting together an exhibition like FRONT, which has so many different museums, off-site venues, and local curators and administrators taking part in the larger curatorial process, all of which need their voices to be heard, is not an easy undertaking.

"As the triennial was evolving, I found that I personally could not identify with the directions it was taking but I am confident that FRONT will be a wonderful experience for visitors and the participating artists. I am very glad to know that Michelle Grabner, who has been a wonderful and inspiring co-artistic director, will carry FRONT over the finish line."

It turns out that might not be the whole story. News broke this week that Hoffmann, a celebrated arts figure who also serves as artistic director of the Honolulu Biennial, senior advisor for KADIST Art Foundation in San Francisco, and who recently took on a new role at MOCA Detroit, was suspended from his position at the Jewish Museum in New York after allegations of sexual harassment.

“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 for the Jewish Museum told Artnet News in a statement. “In light of this information, we have suspended all current projects with him while we review the allegations.”

Hoffman's attorney told Artnet News he “flatly denies having sexually harassed anyone ever at the museum. He has no basis for commenting because he’s never been confronted with the allegations.” Hoffmann additionally told the outlet his contract had simply ended on Nov. 30.

As for FRONT, Bidwell told the PD that while this is a minor issue, it's just that — minor.

"I would expect there will be some changes in the lineup of the artists' list, but it will be relatively minor," Bidwell said, noting full confidence in co-director Michelle Grabner. "The scope of the project, the ambition of the project are undiminished. I'm very confident, excited and optimistic about where we're going."

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation