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Swiss Institute, New York Photo: Nicholas Venezia, courtesy Selldorf Architects

A group of artists, writers and other figures has submitted a letter to New York's Swiss Institute calling for a discussion around domestic violence accusations made against the artist Tobias Madison, whose work is in the current group show life and limbs. Madison, who was born in Basel and is based in New York and Zurich, is facing charges in New York Criminal Court of allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

Madison was arrested on 7 March for an episode alleged to have taken place in December 2018. According to the criminal complaint, Madisons girlfriend says he hit her in the face, struck her head against a wall, and strangled her. The violence caused swelling, concussion, and “substantial pain”, the victim reported. A close friend of the couple who saw them later that night, and who wished to remain anonymous, corroborated the girlfriend's story and told The Art Newspaper they were scared and concerned for her safety for months after the incident.

Madison has been charged by the New York District Attorneys office with two counts of assault, one count of attempted assault, and one count of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation—all misdemeanors. He also faces one count of harassment, which is a violation. Madisons lawyer declined to comment for this story. The next hearing in the case is due to take place on 16 October.

On 30 September, five days after the exhibition life and limbs opened at the Swiss Institute in downtown New York, 29 artists, writers, and others sent a “letter of concern” to the staff and board members of the non-profit art organisation, as well as to the curator and some of the roughly 30 artists and designers in the show. The letter details the accusations against Madison and requests that they be addressed in some way, but it does not call for Madisons work to be removed from the exhibition.

“While a verdict has not yet been reached in court, we take these accusations seriously, and we believe a conversation about them must take place,” the letter states. “How should we, as a community, address these kinds of troubling claims? We defer to you. Ignoring them is not the answer.” Signatories include the artists Keren Benbenisty, Seung-Min Lee, and Max Maslansky, as well as the writers Veronica Gomez Peña and Kate Wolf. Since the letter was first sent, 11 more people signed on, including the artist Moyra Davey, whose work is also in the show.

The purpose of the letter is to initiate dialogue, Wolf told The Art Newspaper. In the art world today, “political correctness or wokeness is the new norm, but it can seem . . . like window dressing,” while no “deeper discussion or soul searching is taking place,” she said. “Ideally this could push it in that direction. To me the most interesting conversation is knowing someone has done bad things and still looking at their work, but maybe looking with those things in mind.”

Tobias Madison, Coral Larma (2015), palladium, steel, paint, caoutchouc Photo: Jillian Steinhauer

One of the signatories, the textile designer Arati Rao, had previously written her own letter to the Swiss Institute in April. Having heard that the non-profit was planning to display Madisons work, Rao sent a note detailing the charges against him and appealing to the organisations stated commitment “to the highest standards of curRead More – Source