UK Museums ‘Resume Contact’ With Donor Anthony d’Offay Following Sexual Harassment Allegations

Despite complaints from four women, Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland have resumed their relationships with the British art dealer and donor.

British art dealer, collector, and curator Anthony d'Offay with a work by Phyllida Barlow at Tate Modern. Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images.

Last year, UK museums including Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland distanced themselves from museum donor and retired art dealer Anthony d’Offay after four women accused him of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior. But the institutions have since renewed their ties to D’Offay after a police inquiry failed to materialize and other investigations “produced no firm evidence.”

“Over a year ago we were made aware of allegations against Anthony d’Offay,” a representative of the two museums told the Times of London. “The trustees of Tate and National Galleries of Scotland took appropriate time to consider these… No formal investigation ensued and trustees have since resumed contact with Mr. d’Offay, and informed relevant stakeholders accordingly.”

The “Tate’s trustees faced intensive lobbying not just from critics of d’Offay but also from his supporters,” reported the Guardian. Activists from the group We Are Not Surprised pressured the museum to cut ties with d’Offay, while his business partner and several trustees lobbied on his behalf. “You have to convey the degree to which this has just completely polarized people in the arts community,” one senior source at the museum told the paper.

As news of the allegations against him broke, d’Offay stepped down as ex officio curator of Artist Rooms, a touring program he co-founded of the Tate and National Galleries’ program to send contemporary art to some 77 museums and galleries across the nation since its initial acquisition in 2008. Three women, including two former employees, had come forward with harassment complaints, while a fourth woman went to the police with accusations of malicious communication. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Robert Mapplethorpe, <em>Self Portrait</em> (1980). Photo courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, ©the Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait (1980). Photo courtesy of Artist Rooms, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, acquired through the d’Offay donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008, ©Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Neither museum nor d’Offay immediately responded to requests for comment.

d’Offay worked as an art dealer from 1965 to 2001. The Artist Rooms collection now includes 1,600 works by 40 international artists, including Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, Roy Lichtenstein, Diane Arbus, Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst.

Some 44 million visitors have seen an Artist Rooms exhibition, which are typically dedicated to a single artist. However, the newest exhibition in the series, “ARTIST ROOMS Self Evidence: Photographs by Woodman, Arbus and Mapplethorpe” (on view at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery through October 20), breaks with precedent by combining the works of Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

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