Three museums around the world have cancelled exhibitions by Jon Rafman in response to complaints on social media of alleged sexual misconduct by the acclaimed Canadian digital-media artist.
The museums—the Kunstverein Hannover; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal—had each scheduled separate solo shows this year.
The Kunstverein Hannover, which had planned to show (2016–19), which was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale, confirmed its cancellation today in a statement issued to Artnet News.
“As we know about the allegations, we are postponing the exhibition with Jon Rafman until these allegations are clarified,” a spokesperson said.
The museums took action after three women shared their recollections of sexual encounters with Rafman on the Instagram @surviving_the_artworld, which publishes allegations of abusive behavior in the art world.
“I understand that institutions are under immense pressure these days to respond to a variety of societal concerns, and moving forward as a community, I hope that there is a way to address these issues in a nuanced manner,” Rafman said in an email to Artnet News. “I believe due process is incredibly important in these situations.”
Rafman met all three of the women online, and two on the dating app Tinder, according to their posts. The accusers are artist Anne-Marie Trépanier and arts administrator Emily Cadotte, both 28, and a third woman who has remained anonymous.
Each of the accusers suggest that the relationship with Rafman was characterized by a power imbalance that left them feeling uncomfortable.
In a post on the @surviving_the_artworld Instagram, Trépanier said she added Rafman as a Facebook friend in 2014, when she was 21. Later, at his invitation, she says she went to dinner with the artist, his mother, and an unnamed curator, after which she and Rafman slept together. She alleges that later sexual encounters left her feeling “disgusting, soiled… embarrassed, so embarrassed.”
Trépanier did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
In her accusations, Cadotte said she continued messaging with Rafman after an “uncomfortable” sexual encounter “because I saw him as a gatekeeper in the Montreal art scene that I so desperately wanted to be a part of.”
She added: “In recognizing my own complicity in this situation it took me a long time to identify what had happened over the span of a month or two as sexual coercion and an abuse of power.”
Artnet News was unable to reach Cadotte for further comment.
According to the Instagram account’s page, Rafman has since sent its owners a cease and desist letter. Rafman declined to comment on the matter.
In an email, Rafman, who issued a statement apologizing for his actions on July 23, told Artnet News: “I was deeply saddened by how upsetting these experiences were for the women involved. And I empathize with their voices, but I disagree with how these testimonies have been labeled on Instagram and in the press.
“The relationships described were initiated and maintained by both parties, and they unfolded over an extended period; the communications we had were positive, and no grievances were expressed to me until now,” he added. “In retrospect, I wish I had been more attentive to the intricacies and dynamics of these relationships so I could have better addressed them at the time; this is a source of profound regret.”
On July 15, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal became the first to suspend its Rafman show “until further notice,” according to the . Mention of the exhibition, originally scheduled for July 4 through September 6, has since been removed from the museum’s website.
The museum did not respond to inquiries from Artnet News.
That same week, Bradley Ertaskiran, which represented Rafman in Montreal, also severed its relationship with the artist.
“I can confirm that the gallery is no longer representing Jon Rafman. We will not be providing any additional comments,” a representative for the dealer told Artnet News in an email.
Then, this week, the Hirshhorn said it would also suspend a high-profile planned exhibition of the artist’s work.
“The Hirshhorn is aware of the allegations and has made the decision not to move forward at this time,” the museum said in a statement provided to Artnet News. (The institution’s decision was first reported by .)
The exhibition, which was being organized by the museum’s curator-at-large, Gianni Jetzer, would have been Rafman’s largest US solo show to date, according to the . It was scheduled to include the debut of a newly commissioned virtual-reality piece, as well as his most famous series, , featuring found images from the online map service.
Rafman also has work on view currently in a group at the Sharjah Art Foundation. The foundation has not responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.
A representative for Rafman’s Berlin and Los Angeles gallery, Sprüth Magers, told Artnet News in an email that the gallery “will always carefully examine any allegation directed against our employees, our artists, or our business partners. Therefore we are investigating this matter internally with the utmost importance.”
Rafman’s London gallery, Seventeen Gallery, did not respond to inquiries by press time.
The artist, 38, was featured in the 2017 Sharjah Biennale and Zurich’s Manifesta biennial in 2016. He was also the subject of a 2016 solo show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
The allegations against Rafman come as Montreal finds itself rocked by scandals, including the explosive firing of the director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Nathalie Bondil, amid accusations of a toxic work environment; and the publication of anonymous complaints targeting a growing number of powerful Quebec men, according to the Global News.
The feminist art gallery Studio XX told the that it plans to hold a community discussion on abuse of power in Quebec arts organizations over Zoom on August 10.