Tate Cuts Links With Donor Anthony d’Offay After the Former Art Dealer Is Accused of Sexual Harassment
A police investigation and allegations made by an artist and former employees could tarnish the philanthropist’s gift of Artist Rooms, a touring contemporary art collection managed with the National Galleries of Scotland.
The major UK museum donor and former art dealer Anthony d’Offay has been accused of sexual harassment by three women, including two former employees. Meanwhile, the police are investigating an allegation of malicious communication made by an unnamed woman, the Observer reports. She is an artist, artnet News has learned. The 78-year-old retired art dealer and philanthropist is the most high-profile person in the British art world to face such allegations since the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct.
The allegations against d’Offay—which he strongly denies—cast a shadow over the 10th anniversary of his gift of Artist Rooms to the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. The part gift, part purchase of the collection of contemporary art, which is supported by the UK charity the Art Fund, was unveiled in 2008 and has toured numerous venues across the UK over the past decade. (d’Offay only received the original cost of the collection.) Artist Rooms has expanded through subsequent gifts, so that it now includes more than 1,600 works by 40 international artists, ranging from Diane Arbus, Joseph Beuys, and Damien Hirst to Francesca Woodman and Jenny Holzer. In 2016, Phyllida Barlow became the 40th artist to enter the collection when she donated works to the Artist Rooms Foundation, which is directed by d’Offay.
After news broke in the Observer on Sunday, January 14, of the historic allegations against d’Offay—the majority of which date from his 30-year career as a top art dealer from 1965 to 2001—the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland issued a joint statement severing contact with the donor.
“The work of Tate and NGS is underpinned by values of fairness, equality and respect and the right to work free of sexual harassment,” the art galleries’ joint press statement reads. “We expect these values to be demonstrated in the behaviour of everyone who is involved in our organizations.”
“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.”
A Tate spokeswoman added that d’Offay had stepped down from Artist Rooms this past December. In fact, d’Offay left his role as ex-officio curator of Artist Rooms on December 19, one day before the police received the allegation of malicious communications.
A spokeswoman for the Art Fund tells artnet News that “it has been informed on this issue,” but did not say whether the charity was also distancing itself from the philanthropist.
The Observer quotes three women anonymously. They allege various incidents of inappropriate physical and verbal behavior by d’Offay that are said to have taken place between 1997 and 2004. The allegations range from “grabbing” one of his accusers and kissing her while she was on the telephone at work to having “lunged” at another who had rejected his repeated advances.
artnet News spoke to a former d’Offay employee who wished to remain anonymous. She says that she is “not surprised” by the allegations, although she was not subject to any sexually inappropriate behavior herself.
Following artnet News’s request for comment, a lawyer for d’Offay referred to his statement made to the Observer in which he said that he is “appalled at these allegations.” He added that if there is an investigation “then police time is being wasted.”
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