Jens Hoffmann

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Jens Hoffmann (born 1974) is a writer and curator based in New York. He is currently Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit,[1] Director of Special Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Jewish Museum New York [2], Artistic Director (with Michelle Grabner) of FRONT International: Triennial of Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2018) [3] and Artistic Director of the 2nd Honolulu Biennial (2019.) [4] Since 2006 Hoffmann has been a Senior Advisor and Curator for the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris and San Francisco. In 2017 he was appointed Artistic Director of Fundación Arte in Buenos Aires.

Jens Hoffmann June 2015 Photo: Pedro Reyes


Hoffmann started his museum career as an intern at the Portikus Kunsthalle Frankfurt (1995), followed by two years as an exhibitions assistant at the Dia Art Foundation, New York (1995-1997). He worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as an assistant curator from 1998 to 2000. From 2001 to 2002 Hoffmann worked as a curator at the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf. From 2003 to 2007 Hoffmann was the director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and from 2007 to 2012 director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco. In addition Hoffmann was director of the Capp Street Artists in Residency Program from 2007 to 2012, San Francisco. From 2012 to 2016 he was Deputy Director of the Jewish Museum in New York where he currently works as Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs.

For the Kadist Art Foundation he has formed the Americana Collection featuring over 300 works by emerging artists from Latin and North America. He most recently organized Camera of Wonders, bringing together photographic works from the Kadist Art Foundation and La Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel (CIAC), Mexico City, which opened at the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City in November 2015 and traveled to the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin, Colombia in 2016.

Since 2012 he has been senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit,[5] where his exhibition The Past Is Present opened in September 2013.[6] 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. Other exhibitions organized by Hoffmann at MOCA Detroit include The People's Biennial 2014 (co-curated with Harrell Fletcher), 2014; Detroit City, ongoing since 2014; United States of Latin America (co-curated with Pablo Leon de la Bara), 2015; 99 Cents, 2017 and Sonic Rebellion: Music as Resistance, 2017.[7]

Between 2013 and 2017 Hoffmann has been curator for special programs and a member of the selection committee of the New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center, New York. Hoffmann was a guest curator for the 30th Istanbul Film Festival in 2011, for which he organized a series of screenings Untitled (Film), including films by Peter Watkins, William E. Jones, Ousmane Sembene, Tevfik Başer, Derek Jarman, Guy Debord, Konrad Wolf, and others. In 2012, together with Edoardo Bonaspetti, Andrea Lissoni, and Filipa Ramos, Hoffmann developed the ongoing, an online platform offering screenings of films and videos directed by visual artists and filmmakers.

In 2007 Hoffmann founded the Museum of Modern Art and Western Antiquities, for which he has curated two exhibitions: Section IV, Department of Light Recordings: Lens Drawings, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris (2013), and Section III, Department of Pigments on Surface: Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative, Thomas Dane Gallery, London (2007). The next exhibition for the Museum of Modern Art and Western Antiquities will be Section II, Department of Carving and Modeling (2019).[8][9]

In 2009 he founded, with Harrell Fletcher, the People’s Biennial. A nomadic biennial that considered the idea of a people as a productive and positive force of solidarity, emancipation, and collective creativity, standing in opposition to categorization, marginalization, and oppression. Without summarizing a people through totalizing or simplifying narratives, the People’s Biennial explores and presents the creative activities of individuals and collectives as expressions of society’s cultural diversity that would otherwise be overlooked, neglected, or even actively repressed. The first edition was organized in 2010 by Independent Curators International (ICI) and toured to five museums in the United States in 2011-12: ICA, Portland, Oregon; Dahl Art Center, Rapid City, South Dakota; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona; and Cantor Fitzgerald Galleries, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania. The People’s Biennial 2014 took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.[10] The 3rd People's Biennial will take place at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art in 2018 curated by Fletcher, Hoffmann and Amy Zion. From 2011 to 2012 Hoffmann and Fletcher operated the one year long People's Gallery in San Francisco's Mission District, presenting solo exhibitions of six artists from the inaugural People's Biennial.

Selected exhibitions[edit]

The Jewish Museum (Manhattan), since 2012

The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin, 2017

Take Me (I'm Yours) (co-curated with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Kelly Taxter), 2016

Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist (co-curated with Claudia Nahson), 2016

Unorthodox (co-curated with Kelly Taxter and Daniel Palmer), 2015

Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography - Early Soviet Film (co-curated with Susan Goodman), 2015

Repetition and Difference (co-curated with Susan Braunstein), 2015

Other Primary Structures, 2014

Dani Gal: As From Afar, 2014

Masterpieces and Curiosities, 2013 - 2017

Using Walls, Floors and Ceilings: Claire Fontaine, 2013; Mel Bochner, 2014; Willem De Rooij, 2014; Chantal Joffe, 2015; Valeska Soares, 2015; Beatriz Milhazes, 2016; Alex Israel, 2016 (all co-curated with Kelly Taxter)

Sights and Sounds, 2013 - 2016

Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, since 2012

Sonic Rebellion: Music As Resistance, 2017

99 Cents or Less, 2017

United States of Latin America (co-curated with Pablo Leon de la Barra), 2015

Double Feature: Ragnar Kjartansson, 2015 and 2016

Detroit City with solo shows by John Maggie, Jamian Juliano Viliani, Greg Fadell, Jonathan Hernandez, Steve Shaw, Annette Kelm, Matthew Harrison, Adriana Martinez, Dana Awartani, Alivia Zivich, 2014-2017

People’s Biennial 2 (co-curated with Harrell Fletcher), 2014

James Lee Byers (co-curated with Triple Candie), 2014

The Past Is Present, 2013

When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, 2012

Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, 2007-2012

Solo exhibitions[11]

Tauba Auerbach, Alexandre da Chuna, Peter Coffin, Ryan Gander, Joao Maria Gusmao & Pedro Paiva, Federico Herrero, Colter Jacobson, Annette Kelm, Tim Lee, Shana Lutker, Daria Martin, Kris Martin, Gareth Moore, Kristin Morgin, Valerie Mrejen, Roman Ondak, Kirsten Pieroth, Dirk Stewen, Jordan Wolfson, Mario Ybarra Jr.

Tino Sehgal (multi-year retrospective) 2007-2012

Group exhibitions

Americana: 50 States, 50 Months, 50 Exhibitions, 2007–2012

When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, 2012

Painting Between the Lines, 2011; traveled to Williams College Museum of Art, 2012

More American Photographs, 2011; traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO, 2012; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, 2013; California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside, 2014

Huckleberry Finn, 2010

Moby Dick, 2009

The Wizard of Oz, 2008

Low Life Slow Life Part 1 & 2 (organized with Paul McCarthy), 2008 & 2009

Apocalypse Now (co-curated with Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla), 2007

Pioneers, 2007

Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 2003-2007

Tino Sehgal, 2008, 2007, 2006

Alien Nation, 2007 (traveled to Manchester Art Gallery, 2007; Sainsbury Center For Visual Arts, 2008)

Surprise, Surprise, 2006

Around the World in Eighty Days (at ICA and South London Gallery), 2006

Cerith Wyn Evans, 2006

London in Six Easy Steps, 2005

Martha Rosler, 2005

Jonathan Monk, 2005

John Bock, 2004

Artists’ Favorites Act I and Act II, 2004

Other Museum and Gallery Exhibitions, since 1997

Animality, Marian Goodman Gallery, London, 2016

Let there be (more) light, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, 2016

Camera of Wonders: Reprint, Medellín Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Camera of Wonders, Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, 2015

No Such Thing As History: Four Collections and One Artist, Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Munich, 2014[12]

Marxism, 303 Gallery, New York, 2012

BLOCKBUSTER: Cinema for Exhibitions, La Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel (CIAC), Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City, 2012

On The Road, ArtPace, San Antonio, 2010

PanAmericana, Galeria Kurimanzutto, Mexico City, 2010

Conversation Pieces, Johnen Galerie, Berlin, 2009

This Is Not a Void, Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo, 2008

For Sale, Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon, 2007

Home of the Free, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, 2006

Me, Myself and I, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2006

Stipendium, Hamburger Kunstverein, 2006

The Studio (co-curated with Christina Kennedy), The Hugh Lane Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006

WRONG, Klosterfelde Galerie, Berlin, 2006

A Walk to Remember, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 2005

Deutschland sucht (co-curated with Katherine Romberg), Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, 2004

The Exhibition as a Work of Art, EAV (Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage), Rio de Janeiro, 2003

Exhibitions of an Exhibition, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York, 2003

Institution Squared, KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, 2003

The World Question Center (Reloaded), Now What?, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 2003

A show that will show that a show is not only a show, The Project, Los Angeles, 2003

SPECTACULAR: The Art of Action, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, 2001–02

A Little Bit of History Repeated, Kunst Werke, Berlin, 2001

Exhibition Squared, IASPIS, Stockholm, 2001

Indiscipline (co-curated with Barbara Vanderlinden), part of Brussels 2000 Cultural Capital of Europe, organized by Roomade—Office for Contemporary Art, Brussels, 2000

Destination Is Wherever It Arrives, Salon 3, London, 1999

The Show Must Go On, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1999

Tropical Modernity (co-curated with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster), Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona, 1999

Au-Dela, Klosterfelde Galerie, Berlin, 1998

Contemporary Self-Portraits, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 1997

From 2003 to 2012, Hoffmann 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). In 2016 Hoffmann organized the Project section of ARTBO (International Art Fair Bogota) and co-curated with Piper Marshall the exhibition Mementos: Artists’ Souvenirs, Artifacts, and other Curiosities for Art Brussels in 2017.

Biennials / Triennials[edit]

2nd Honolulu Biennial (artistic director), 2019

FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art (co-artistic director with Michelle Grabner), 2018

3rd People's Biennial 2018 (co-curator with Harrell Fletcher and Amy Zion) forthcoming, 2018

Performa 17 (guest curator), New York, 2017

2nd People’s Biennial 2014 (co-curator, with Harrell Fletcher)

9th Shanghai Biennale (co-curator), 2012

12th Istanbul Biennial (co-curator, with Adriano Pedrosa), 2011

1st People’s Biennial 2010 (co-curator, with Harrell Fletcher)

2nd San Juan Triennial, (co-curator), Puerto Rico, 2009

9th Lyon Biennial (guest curator), 2007

1st Prague Biennial (co-curator), 2003

Manifesta 4 (guest curator and participant), Frankfurt, 2002

9th Caribbean Biennial (co-curator, with Maurizio Cattelan), St. Kitts, 1999

1st Berlin Biennial (assistant curator), 1998

Documenta X (assistant curator), Kassel, 1997

Curatorial Approach[edit]

Hoffmann's training in theater exerts a great influence on his curatorial efforts. Of key importance in 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 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 Garcia Torres, Claire Fontaine, Harrell Fletcher, Abraham Cruzvillegas, 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 Ondák, Tim Lee, and Paul McCarthy.

Journals and Magazines[edit]

In 2009 Hoffmann founded The Exhibitionist: A Journal on Exhibition Making, 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, Texte zur Kunst, DOMUS, 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. Among them are:

(Curating) From Z to A, JRP-Ringier, forthcoming, 2017

Theater of Exhibitions, Sternberg Press, 2015

(Curating) From A to Z, JRP-Ringier, 2014

Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson, 2014

Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating, Mousse Publishing, 2013

The Studio, MIT Press, Documents of Contemporary Art series, and Whitechapel Gallery, 2012

Perform (co-author, with Joan Jonas), Thames & Hudson, 2005

The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by An Artist (ed.), Revolver, 2004

Vitamin C (co-author), Phaidon, 2017

Vitamin P3 (co-author), Phaidon, 2016

Vitamin P2 (co-author), Phaidon, 2011

Vitamin 3D (co-author), Phaidon, 2009

Cream 4 (co-author), Phaidon, 2007

Vitamin PH (co-author), Phaidon, 2006


Hoffmann is adjunct professor at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan since 2003 and was associate professor at the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts in San Francisco (2006-2012). In 2012 Hoffmann was visiting professor and course leader of the 4th Gwangju Biennale Curatorial Course.

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 Jonas, and Claire Fontaine as well as art historians Dorothea von Hantelmann and Frazer Ward.

He has taught seminars at art schools and universities including School of Visual Arts, Braunschweig, Germany (2002); University of the Arts, Berlin (2002); Concordia University, Montreal (2002); Royal Art Academy, Stockholm (2002, 2004); Center for Curatorial Studies/Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (2003, 2010, 2011); Royal College of Art, London (2004, 2005, 2009); Escola De Artes Visuais Do Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro (2003); Art Center Pasadena, Los Angeles (2004); Art History Department of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków (2005); Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles (2005); California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles (2005); University of Leeds, Leeds (2006); School for Art Theory and Practice, Budapest (2006); Ruskin School of Fine Arts, Oxford University (2008); Roski School of Fine Arts at University of Southern California, Los Angeles (2008); and University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2009).

Education and Early Theater Work[edit]

Hoffmann trained as a theater director and studied stage directing and 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 1993 to 1995 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).

Affiliations and Memberships[edit]

American Association of Museums; College Art Association; Association of Art Museum Curators


Hoffmann is the president of Despacio - Center for Contemporary Art, San Jose, Costa Rica. He is a member of the advisory board of MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia), Lisbon, the curatorial advisory board of LAXART, Los Angeles, the advisory council of PERFORMA, New York and on the board of FormContent, Vienna; Hoffmann serves on the curatorial board of Defragmentation a collaboration between Ultima Festival in Oslo, Donaueschinger Musiktage and the Berliner Festspiele.

Fellowships and Honors[edit]


Institute Inclusartiz, Curator in Residence, Rio de Janeiro


Irish Museum of Modern Art, Curator in Residence, Dublin

Award of Excellence Honorable Mention, Association of American Museum Curators Foundation: "Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist" co-curated with Claudia Nahson, The Jewish Museum, New York.

Best Publication of the Year, Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago: "The Exhibitionist: The First Six Years" and Judge's Choice Award for best web-site design ""


Award of Excellence, Association of American Museum Curators Foundation: "Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography Early Soviet Film" co-curated with Susan Goodman, The Jewish Museum, New York


Global Fine Arts Awards: "Other Primary Structures," The Jewish Museum, New York, Best Contemporary and Post War Exhibition (Finalist)


7th Annual AAC Art China Exhibition Award: 9th Shanghai Biennial Best Exhibition of the Year


ACAX, Budapest

Japan Foundation, Tokyo


Creative New Zealand, Auckland

Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement, The Menil Collection, Houston (Finalist)


International Cultural Visits Program Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


Tranzit, Prague


OCA—Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo


Goethe Institute, Munich


Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam


DCA—Danish Contemporary Art Foundation, Copenhagen

Canada Art Council, Ottawa


AFAA—Association Française d’Action Artistique, Paris

NIFCA—Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, Curator in Residence, Helsinki


IASPIS—International Artists’ Studio Program in Sweden, Curator in Residence, Stockholm