Jens Hoffmann

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For the German director, writer and cinematographer, see Jens Hoffmann (filmmaker).
Jens Hoffmann
Jens Hoffmann.png
Jens Hoffmann, San Francisco, May 1, 2012
Born (1974-04-01) 1 April 1974 (age 40)
San Jose, Costa Rica
Occupation Writer and curator
Employer The Jewish Museum, New York

Jens Hoffmann Mesèn is a writer and exhibition maker. He currently is Deputy Director of The Jewish Museum in New York, where he oversees exhibitions, collections, and public programs. He has curated more than 50 exhibitions internationally and written more than 200 texts on art and exhibition making.

From 2002 to 2006 Hoffmann was the director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and from 2007 to 2012 he was director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, where he also directed Capp Street Project an artist in residence program established in 1983 dedicated to the creation and presentation of new art installations.

Since 2006 Hoffmann has been senior advisor for the Kadist Art Foundation based in Paris and San Francisco, for which he has assembled the 101 Collection with artworks by artists from the West Coast of the United States, as well as El Sur, featuring artworks of emerging artists from Latin America. Both collections merged in 2014 to form the Americana collection.

He is currently organizing Age of Extremes bringing together photographic works from the Kadist Art Foundation as well as from La Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel (CIAC), Mexico City. The exhibition will tour in Latin America in 2015 and 2016.

Since 2012 he has been senior adjunct curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, his exhibition The Past Is Present opened in September 2013. In February 2014 he co-curated, with Triple Candie, I Cancel All My Works At Death, the first comprehensive survey of the actions and performances of James Lee Byars. Forthcoming exhibitions organized by Hoffmann at MOCA Detroit include The People's Biennial 2014 (co-curated with Harrell Fletcher), opening in September 2014, Detroit City (co-curated with Rebecca Mazzei and Greg Baise), opening in 2015, as well as Working Class, opening in late 2015.

Since 2013 he is Curator for Special Programs and a member of the selection committee of New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center, New York.

Together with Edoardo Bonaspetti, Andrea Lissoni, and Filipa Ramos, Hoffmann developed, an online platform offering screenings of films and videos directed by visual artists and filmmakers.

Hoffmann's exhibition No Such Thing As History: Four Collections and One Artist, which opened in March 2014, is currently on view at the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton in Munich.

Based on Jean-Pierre Melville's Association des Cinématographie Indépendants (ACI), Hoffmann founded the Association des Conservateurs Indépendants (ACI) (Association of Independent Curators) in 2008, he is the only member. He was an original member of the Union of the Imaginary (VOTI), the first online network for curators (1998-2000).


Hoffmann was co-curator of the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012-2013) the inaugural exhibition of the Power Station of Art, China's first public contemporary art museum. The exhibition received the 7th Annual AAC Art China Exhibition Award for best exhibition in 2013.

He curated, with Adriano Pedrosa, the 12th Istanbul Biennial in 2011.

With Harrell Fletcher, and organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), he curated the People's Biennial 2010, of which the first edition was presented at five U.S. museums; the second edition will be presented at MOCA Detroit in 2014.

He co-curated the 2nd San Juan Triennial in Puerto Rico in 2009, was a guest curator of the 9th Lyon Biennial in 2007 and Manifesta 4 in Frankfurt in 2002. He co-curated the 1st Berlin Biennial in 1998, serving as assistant curator and artistic coordinator with Klaus Biesenbach, Nancy Spector, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. In 1999 he organized, with Maurizio Cattelan, the 9th Caribbean Biennial in St. Kitts.

Curatorial Approach[edit]

Hoffmann's training in theater exerts a great influence on his curatorial efforts. Of key importance in all of his exhibitions is the staging of the experience, from the design of the installation to the conceptualization of the catalogue, the related programming, and the "performances" of the artworks themselves. The stage set of the exhibition space, site, or geographical location is itself an important factor in the development of his ideas, which respond to both time and place. Hoffmann takes into account the larger historical and sociopolitical context in which an exhibition is happening as well as the relevant curatorial and art historical relationships.

A defining characteristic of Hoffmann's work is his conception of an authorial role for the curator, as well as applying the ideas and strategies of artists (in particular Conceptual art) to his curatorial efforts. His unique approach has resulted in a highly personal exhibition history that reflects a creative development not dissimilar to that of an artist.

Hoffmann has been closely associated with the work of artists such as Tino Sehgal, Ryan Gander, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Simon Fujiwara, Mario Gracia Torres, Claire Fontaine, Harrell Fletcher, Abraham Cuzvillegas, Annette Kelm, Rivane Neuenschwander, Marepe, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Cerith Wyn Evans, Yinka Shonibare, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Martha Rosler, Kirsten Pieroth, John Bock, Jonathan Monk, Kris Martin John Baldessari, Luisa Lambri, Roman Ondak, Tim Lee, and Paul McCarthy.

Journals and Magazines[edit]

In 2009 Hoffmann founded The Exhibitionist: A Journal on Exhibition Making, distributed by MIT Press, which has advocated the author theory as developed specifically by François Truffaut in his 1954 essay "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français" ("A certain tendency in French cinema") and adapted Truffaut's ideas to the sphere of exhibition making.

Hoffmann has been editor-at-large for Mousse magazine since 2011 and is a frequent contributor to Frieze and Artforum. He has written for Parkett and Critique d'Arts, and was a columnist for Purple (magazine) from 2001 to 2003 as well as a correspondent for Flash Art from 2002 to 2007.

Books and Publications[edit]

Hoffmann has written and edited over three dozen books and exhibition publications. His most recent books include Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating (Mousse Publishing, 2013), The Studio (for the MIT Press series Documents of Contemporary Art and Whitechapel Gallery, 2012), The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by An Artist (ed.) (Revolver, 2004), and Perform (coauthored with Joan Jonas, Thames & Hudson, 2005).

Show Time, a history of exhibitions from 1990 to the present, was published by Thames & Hudson in March 2014. The Theater of Exhibitions will be published by Sternberg Press in August 2014.

Hoffmann is currently developing Curating (From A to Z) for JRP|Ringier to be published in late 2014.


Hoffmann was an adjunct professor at the Nova Academia di Bella Arti in Milan (2004 - 2013) and was an associate professor at the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts in San Francisco (2006-2012).

From 2003 to 2009 he was a senior lecturer at the MFA in Curating Program at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2001 Hoffmann was adjunct professor at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm.

Hoffmann conceived and organized the 2010 MIT Max Wasserman Forum titled Parody, Politics, and Performativity, which included presentations by artists Tino Sehgal, Tania Bruguera, Joan Joans and Claire Fontaine as well as art historians Dorothea von Hantelmann and Frazer Ward.

In 2012 Hoffmann was visiting professor and course leader of the 4th Gwangju Biennale Curatorial Course.

Education and Early Theater Work[edit]

Hoffmann trained as a theater director and studied stage directing, dramaturgy, with Andrea Breth and Manfred Karge as well as cultural sociology with Wolfgang Engler at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin. He holds an MA from DasArts: School for Advanced Research in Theater and Dance Studies at the Amsterdam School for the Arts where he studied under the Dutch theater pioneer Ritsaert ten Cate. Hoffmann staged and directed a number of productions at the Berliner Arbeiter-Theater bat (Berlin Workers' Theater) including fragments and adaptations of works by Nikolai Gogol, William Shakespeare, Heiner Müller and Alexander Ostrovsky. His final production at the bat was Oscar Night written by Rene Pollesch.

From 1994 to 1996 Hoffmann worked as an assistant dramaturg under Tom Stromberg at the Theater Am Turm (TAT) in Frankfurt where he worked on productions of such directors as Rene Pollesch, Stefan Pucher, Reza Abdoh, Needcompany, Michael Laub, Jan Fabre, Baktruppen, Gob Squad and Heiner Goebbels. With Stromberg Hoffmann organized Theater Outlines the performing arts program of Documenta X in Kassel (1997). From 1996 to 1997 Hoffmann was a curatorial associate at Performance Space 122, New York.

Exhibition Chronology[edit]

In 2011 Hoffmann curated BLOCKBUSTER: Cinema for Exhibitions, produced by La Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel (CIAC), Mexico City, the largest touring exhibition of film and video art organized in Latin America to date. BLOCKBUSTER has been presented at: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (MARCO) (2011), Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2012); Museo de Arte de Sonora (MUSAS) (2012); Museo de Arte de Sinaloa (MASIN) (2013); Museo AROCENA, Torreón (2013) and the Museo de Arte de Zapopan (MAZ) (2013).

In 2007 Hoffmann founded the Museum of Modern Art and Western Antiquities, for which he curated the exhibition Section III, Department of Pigments on Surface: Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative at the Thomas Dane Gallery in London. His second exhibition for the museum Section IV, Department of Light Recordings: Lens Drawings, opened in 2013 at Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris. Hoffmann is developing an exhibition for Section II, Department of Carving and Modeling, which will take place in 2019.

In 2000 Hoffmann co-curated, with Barbara Vanderlinden, and organized by Roommade- Office for Contemporary Art, Indiscipline, as part of Brussels 2000 Cultural Capital of Europe, a series of talks, lectures, and performances exploring interdisciplinary links among science, art, political theory, and architecture though the spoken word. From 2001 to 2002 Hoffmann worked as a curator at the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf, where he organized SPECTACULAR: The Art of Action, a yearlong examination of the relationship between performance art and the museum's collection, with various stagings and actions taking place throughout the museum.

Museum and Exhibition Affiliations[edit]

Hoffmann has worked for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Dia Art Foundation New York; Documenta X, Kassel, Germany; Portikus]], Frankfurt, Germany; Laboratorium, Antwerp, Belgium; and the Theater Am Turm (TAT), Frankfurt, Germany.

He has curated exhibitions for Kiasma - Museum for Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Ireland; Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany; Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Roomade—Office for Contemporary Art, Brussels; Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro; IASPIS, Stockholm; Basis voor Actuele Kunst (BAK), Utrecht, the Netherlands; Museum in Progress, Vienna; the Vancouver Art Gallery; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; Manchester Art Gallery, England; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; ArtPace, San Antonio; the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown; California Museum of Photography, Riverside and others.

Gallery Work[edit]

Hoffmann also organized a number of exhibitions for commercial galleries such as Sean Kelly, New York (1997); Klosterfelde, Berlin (1999 and 2006); Casey Kaplan, New York (2003); Christina Guerra, Lisbon (2007); Thomas Dane, London (2007); Luisa Strina, São Paulo (2008); Kurimanzuto, Mexico City (2010); Johnen Galerie, Berlin (2011); 303, New York (2012); Marian Goodman, Paris (2013) .

From 2003 to 2012 he worked as a curator for Art Basel, for which he conceived and organized the annual programs Art Perform (2003-2007), Art on Stage (2008-2009) and Art Parcours (2010-2012).