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5,000 Artists Sign Letter Condemning Artforum Publisher for Sexual Harassment

Knight Landesman

The letter came in response to a lawsuit filed against Knight Landesman in which nine women accused him of harassment. 

Hollywood, Silicon Valley, politics, and television journalism are just a few of the industries that have recently been upended by allegations of rampant sexual harassment and abuse. Now it's time to add the art world to the list of industries rocked by survivors of sexual harassment and assault coming forward to name their abusers. More than 5,000 artists, writers, curators, art historians, and more signed an open letter condemning former Artforum publisher Knight Landesman, who resigned last Wednesday after a lawsuit was filed in which nine women alleged he'd sexually harassed them, according to The New York Times.

The letter, begun by 10 members of a WhatsApp group that grew to 125 people within 24 hours, has been signed by luminaries including Cindy Sherman, Laurie Anderson, Lynn Nottage, Phyllida Barlow, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tania Bruguera, and Jenny Holzer, whose work Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise is on the landing page for the letter, which reads:

We are not surprised.

We are artists, arts administrators, assistants, curators, directors, editors, educators, gallerists, interns, scholars, students, writers, and more -- workers of the art world -- and we have been groped, undermined, harassed, infantilized, scorned, threatened, and intimidated by those in positions of power who control access to resources and opportunities. We have held our tongues, threatened by power wielded over us and promises of institutional access and career advancement.

We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favors. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticize, minimize, and hide sexually abusive behavior by artists they represent. We are not surprised when a meeting with a collector or a potential patron becomes a sexual proposition. We are not surprised when we are retaliated against for not complying. We are not surprised when Knight Landesman gropes us in the art fair booth while promising he'll help us with our career. Abuse of power comes as no surprise.

Since the lawsuit was filed last week and Landesman subsequently resigned, Artforum's editor in chief Michelle Kuo has also resigned and the magazine staff wrote and signed their names to a note condemning his behavior.

"We are committed to gender justice and to the eradication of sexual harassment in the art community and beyond. We are now gravely aware of the work that needs to be done at our own publication, and call on the publishers to work with us to create radical and lasting change," the note from the Artforum staff read. "There is much more to be said, and in the future, we will be addressing these events in greater depth. Our intent right now is to state our position unequivocally."

The lawsuit, filed in State Superior Court in Manhattan, "included accusations that he had harassed nine women, groping them, attempting to kiss them, sending them vulgar messages and, on occasion, retaliating against them when they spurned his advances," the Times reporrs. The women who accused Landesman of harassing them ranged from employees of the magazine and women he met at art events, but all of them contended that he took advantage of them at "the start of their careers" when they were "economically and professionally vulnerable."

Landesman, 67, who was not only the publisher of Artforum but a powerful player in the international art scene going back decades, according to the Times.

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