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The Tate and National Galleries Scotland (NGS) both suspended ties with prominent British art dealer and major donor Anthony d’Offay on Sunday after four women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior against him.
Three allegations against the 78-year-old d’Offay, first reported on Sunday by the London-based Observer newspaper, date between 1997 and 2004 and include unwanted kisses, demeaning language, and inappropriate workplace behavior. A fourth woman filed a complaint on December 20th alleging d’Offay sent malicious messages. The charge is currently under investigation by London police.
D’Offay told the Observer that he was “appalled” by the allegations and “categorically” denies the claims, adding that he was unaware of the investigation and that “police time is being wasted.” A fixture of the London art world for decades, d’Offay sold his collection, valued at £125 million, to the British and Scottish governments for £28 million in 2008. The works formed the basis of Artist Rooms, a collection of over 1,500 modern and contemporary artworks and a series of free exhibitions that tours the U.K.
The program, overseen by the Tate and NGS, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. D’Offay stepped down as ex-officio curator of Artist Rooms in December, though the departure was not announced publicly. In a joint statement made after the Observer story was published, the Tate and NGS said that in response to the “serious allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour” against d’Offay, the institutions “have decided that it is appropriate to suspend any further contact with Mr d’Offay until these matters have been clarified.”
The allegations, reported anonymously by the Observer, were made by three women who work in the art world, including two former employees of the Anthony d’Offay Gallery on Dering Street in London, which closed in 2001. The paper reported that the women felt “duty bound” to come forward in the hopes others might follow.
One former employee said that while working for d’Offay in her twenties she was subjected to inappropriate touching and the erosion of personal boundaries. The incidents escalated, she said, until d’Offay kissed her neck repeatedly while she was on the phone. “Because I was on the phone I could not scream. Pushing him away was the only thing I could do,” she told the paper.
Another employee who worked for d’Offay for two years said the dealer demeaned her, using inappropriate and sexually suggestive language around others. “It was something about sitting in one of your laps and giving him a french kiss. It was something suggestive and embarrassing,” she told the Observer of one remark made in front of several people. Though she reported the behavior multiple times, she believes her complaints were not taken seriously.
A third woman described having phone conversations with d’Offay, only to realize from sounds on the phone during the final call that he was in a bath and masturbating, the woman said. During an earlier encounter on a park bench, the same woman said d’Offay “lunged at me with his mouth open. I was in disbelief. I pushed him away and shouted loudly, ‘No, Anthony, absolutely no!’” It was one of several unwanted and inappropriate encounters described by the woman, including a later instance in which d’Offay told her to “go out the tradesman’s entrance, that is where you belong” and threatened professional consequences after the woman refused an Andy Warhol show he was offering due to the incidents.
D’Offay is the most prominent art world figure to face sexual harassment allegations since Artforum publisher Knight Landesman resigned in October following numerous harassment allegations and a lawsuit brought by a former employee over his behavior.