Jens Hoffmann Mesén *1974 in San José, Costa Rica.
Jens Hoffmann is a writer, editor, educator, exhibition maker, and art dealer. In 2018 Hoffmann founded the Office for Curatorial Wonders (OCW), an international operating agency for exhibition-making based in New York, which publishes the interdisciplinary cultural journal Duchamp's Socks and organizes the People's Biennial.
In the summer of 2021, Hoffmann will open the gallery Hoffmann x Maler x Wallenberg in Nice, followed by spaces in Stockholm (2022) and Lisbon (2023).
Over his 20-year career, Hoffmann has organized over four dozen exhibitions, many of which have been characterized as "pioneering" (Hans Ulrich Obrist) and "groundbreaking" (Tino Seghal). The artist Claire Fontaine called Hoffmann "The Robespierre of curating."
He started his career as an assistant dramaturg at the Theater Am Turm in Frankfurt (1992-1994) and became an associate producer at Performance Space 122 in New York (1994-1995). He returned to Frankfurt for an internship at the Portikus Kunsthalle Frankfurt (1995), followed by two years at the Dia Art Foundation, New York (1996–1998), as an exhibitions assistant. He worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as an assistant curator (1998-2000). From 2001 to 2002, Hoffmann worked as a curator at the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf. Between 2003 and 2007, he 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. Besides, Hoffmann was director of the Capp Street Artists in Residency Program (2007-2012), San Francisco. From 2012 to 2017, he was deputy director of the Jewish Museum in New York, and from 2012 to 2018, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Between 2006 and 2018, Hoffmann worked as a curator and senior advisor for the Kadist Art Foundation, for which he formed the Americana Collection, featuring over 300 works by emerging artists from Latin and North America. He was a curator for the Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel (CIAC), Mexico City, from 2012 to 2016 and, in 2017, guest curator at the Fundación Arte in Buenos Aires.
Between 2013 and 2017, Hoffmann was the curator for special programs and a member of the New York Jewish Film Festival selection committee at Lincoln Center, New York. He was a guest curator for the 30th Istanbul Film Festival in 2011. In 2012, together with Edoardo Bonaspetti, Andrea Lissoni, and Filipa Ramos, Hoffmann developed the ongoing Vdrome.org, an online platform offering screenings of films and videos directed by visual artists and filmmakers.
From 2011 to 2018, he was Editor-at-Large of Mousse Magazine, Milan, and from 2011 to 2017 Editor-in-Chief of The Exhibitionist: Journal on Exhibition Making, which he founded.
In 2007 Hoffmann established the Museum of Modern Art and Western Antiquities, a nomadic institution, for which he has curated a trilogy of exhibitions: Section II, Department of Carving and Modeling (2019), Cristina Guerra Gallery in Lisbon; Section IV, Department of Light Recordings: Lens Drawings, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris (2013); Section III, Department of Pigments on Surface: Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative, Thomas Dane Gallery, London (2007).
Hoffmann curated and co-curated several large scale international group exhibitions such as the 2nd Honolulu Biennial (Artistic Director) 2017; FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art (co-artistic director with Michelle Grabner), 2016 - 2017; Performa 17 (guest curator), New York, 2017; Foto Mexico: Festival Internacional de Fotografia (co-curator) 2016; 2nd People's Biennial 2014 (co-curator, with Harrell Fletcher); 9th Shanghai Biennial (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. He was also an assistant curator for the 1st Berlin Biennial in 1998 and Documenta X, Kassel, 1997. In 1999 Hoffmann co-organized the 9th Caribbean Biennial together with artist Maurizio Cattelan in St. Kitts.
In 2009 he founded the People's Biennial with Harrell Fletcher. The People's Biennial explores and presents individuals and collectives' creative activities 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 2011–2012: 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. The 3rd People's Biennial will take place in 2022.
Hoffmann operated the People's Gallery in San Francisco's Mission District (2011-2012), and together with artist Adriana Martinez and curator Adam Carr, he ran the gallery Espacio Mango in Bogota, Colombia (2019-2020).
Hoffmann lives with artist and art dealer Emily Sundblad, co-founder and owner of the contemporary art gallery Reena Spaulings, New York, and Los Angeles. His daughter Sophia Bianca Hoffmann was born in 2003. They live between New York, Stockholm, Milan, and Tourrette-Sur-Loup on the Côte d'Azur. Hoffmann maintains a home near Heredia, Costa Rica.
He grew up in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Jamaica, Mexico, West Africa, and the UAE before moving to Germany in 1985.
Hoffmann is the great-grandson of Karl Hoffmann, a biologist, and physician. In 1853 he traveled to Costa Rica with Alexander von Frantzius to collect natural history specimens. Hoffmann is commemorated in the names of many animals he discovered in Costa Rica.
His granduncle was Elmry de Hory (Elmer Albert Hoffmann), a Hungarian-born painter and art forger.
Jens Hoffmann with Karl Marx, 2017
Photo: Pedro Reyes