National Galleries Scotland (NGS) has joined Tate in suspending all contact with the influential art dealer and collector Anthony d’Offay. The action follows severe allegations of sexual harassment, racism and inappropriate behaviour. The allegations came to light in The Observer newspaper. They dated from 1997 to 2004 and were reported by women known to the art world. The newspaper also said that Police were investigating d’Offay after a complaint was filed by a young woman who received a malicious message depicting a racist selfie via Instagram. (see Artlyst article)
D’Offay denies all of the allegations, even though the offensive posting was widely published and shared.
When D’offay sold his highly regarded galleries in 2008, he offered both Scottish and English institutions; this private collection at cost or £26.5m, the amount he had spent acquiring it. At the time it was valued at around £125m. The collection, known as Artist Rooms comprises more than 700 artworks, has since been exhibited in more than 100 locations across the UK and has a dedicated display space in London’s Tate Modern.
D’Offay held the post of lead curator for the Artist Rooms collection. However, due to the controversy, he stood down from any involvement with the project last December. The move was not announced widely at the time. “Tate and NGS have been made aware of serious allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour by Anthony d’Offay,” said a joint statement from the organisations. “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.”
According to the Observer, one woman breached non-disclosure provisions of a settlement agreement to report a series of incidents that culminated in 2000 when d’Offay grabbed her and started to kiss her neck while she was on the phone. Another woman is reported as saying that after she was introduced to d’Offay as a possible mentor, he began to phone her outside work, including on one occasion when she believed that he was masturbating in the bath. This followed an incident when she said d’Offay lunged at her with his mouth open.
A third woman told the Observer that she had left the gallery having worked there for two years, after making many complaints about how d’Offay had spoken to her inappropriately. She believes that her complaints were shrugged off, said the newspaper. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Police received an allegation of malicious communications on Wednesday, 20 December. Officers from the Central North Command Unit investigate. No arrests; enquiries continue.”
The Observer quotes D’Offay as saying: “I am appalled these allegations are being levelled against me, and I categorically deny the claims being made.”
He added: “I am completely unaware of any police investigation. If there is one, then police time is being wasted.” He also said: “I conceived the idea for Artist Rooms some 15 years ago. It has been a wonderful success. However, having been directly involved for that length of time and also reaching 78 years old, I decided in December it was time to retire as ex-officio curator.”
“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 behaviour of everyone who is involved in our organisations;” Tate and NGS said