Hoffmann is the granddaughter of the industrialist Emanuel (Manno) Hoffmann (1896-1932), daughter of Daria Hoffmann-Razumovsky (1925-2002) and the pharmaceutical magnate and renowned naturalist Luc Hoffmann (1923-2016). She grew up in the Camargue region of southern France. Her sister is the publisher and philanthropist Vera Michalski and her brother is the businessman André Hoffmann. Maja's other sister, Daria (Daschenka) Hoffmann, passed away in 2019 at the age of 59. Maja has two adult children with the film producer Stanley F. Buchthal, who in some of Hoffmann's films, acts as co-executive producer. Buchthal, who comes from Teaneck, New Jersey was a founder of the Bugle Boy company and now runs his own media company, with Liz Garbus, The Dakota Group Limited.
Hoffmann's grandmother, Maja Stehlin (1896-1989), collected Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, Fernand Léger, Jean Tinguely and Georges Braque. She created the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation (whose collection forms the main core of the Schaulager) in 1933 to honor her husband Emanuel, who had died when his car was hit by a train when her father, Luc, was still a child.
In the 1980s, Maja studied film at the New School and at New York University in New York City. She then made a documentary film about the fishermen of the Sahara. Today, she is part of the shareholder pool made up of descendants of the founder of the Roche Holding AG, which controls the Swiss health-care company Hoffmann-La Roche.
Hoffmann began her art collecting in the 1980s in New York City in the company of Swiss theatre director Werner Düggelin. They encountered and purchased works there by Julian Schnabel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Andy Warhol and others.
In 2015, Steidl published a book offering insight into the private contemporary art and design collection of Hoffmann. The collection is distributed in her various dwelling locations in Arles, Zurich, Gstaad, London and Mustique. The book contains photos by photographer François Halard of these locations mixed with Rirkrit Tiravanija's use of the British nursery rhyme "This is the House that Jack Built".
As an executive producer, Hoffmann has realised a number of documentary films, including Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Bobby Fischer Against the World, Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, The Party's Over, and Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.
Hoffmann's philanthropy supports contemporary art, film, and environmental programmes around the world. In the 1990s, she worked at Luc Hoffmann's La Tour du Valat, focusing in on the breeding of the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) and she helped reintroduce them to their native Mongolia in 2004.
She currently is active with her philanthropy at the Rencontres d'Arles in Arles, the Venice Biennale, the Serpentine Galleries in London, and Human Rights Watch in New York. She is president of the Swiss Institute New York, Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, Kunsthalle Zürich and Vice-President of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation in Switzerland, whose art collection was started by her grandparents and is now part of the Museum of Contemporary Art (Basel).
In 2004, Maja Hoffmann founded the Luma Foundation (Zurich) as a vehicle to express her ongoing commitments, followed by Luma Arles (France) in 2013, an experimental and cross-disciplinary platform dedicated to the production of exhibitions, art and ideas, research, education, and archives. Located at the Parc des Ateliers in Arles, a former industrial site, LUMA Foundation includes a resource center designed with architect Frank Gehry; various industrial buildings rehabilitated with Annabelle Selldorf; and a public park designed by landscape architect Bas Smets. In anticipation of its completion, the site's main building designed by Gehry will open in 2021, Hoffmann works closely with a core group of artistic advisors (Tom Eccles, Liam Gillick, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, and Beatrix Ruf) on a program of exhibitions and multidisciplinary projects presented each year in the site's newly rehabilitated venues.