Anthony d'Offay at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, announcing the sale of the Artist Rooms collection in 2008. Photo by AvoidEyeContact on Flickr. This photo is licensed with an attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.

Tate and National Galleries Scotland cut ties with d’Offay after harassment claims

Jonathan Knott, 16.01.2018
The Observer newspaper reported allegations from three women between 1997 and 2004
Tate and National Galleries Scotland (NGS) have suspended all contact with influential art collector Anthony d’Offay following allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour against him reported in the Observer newspaper.

D’Offay, who strongly denies the allegations, was widely praised when he sold the galleries his collection of modern and contemporary art in 2008 for £26.5m, the amount he had spent acquiring it, although it was valued at around £125m. The collection, which is known as Artist Rooms and 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 was previously the ex-officio curator for Artist Rooms, but the galleries said that he had stood down from any involvement with the project in December. The move was not announced 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.”

The Observer said that the allegations date from 1997 to 2004 and came from women with successful careers in the art world. The newspaper also reported that police were investigating d’Offay after receiving a complaint from a young woman that he sent her malicious messages.

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.”

D’Offay is quoted by the Observer 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.”

Tate and NGS said: “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.”

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