Saturday, October 28, 2017

Art World not immune to harassment and misconduct allegations

ArtForum reported and ArtNews asked awkward questions

It emerged this week that the art world is not immune to allegations of sexual misconduct / inappropriate behaviour. This post covers:
  • the NEWS articles about the alleged misconduct by Knight Landesman, now an ex-publisher of ArtForum
  • why it's more complicated than just misconduct
  • why it's unlikely to be limited to one individual
At present, the ALLEGATIONS all seem to relate to one named individual who has been various described as
  • a pillar of the international art scene, 
  • a well-known and powerful figure
  • a longtime publisher of Artforum magazine and a power broker in the art world
  • a man-about-town known from the galleries of Manhattan to the Art Basel fair in Switzerland for his primary-colored suits and deep connections in the industry.
  • accused of very Harvey Weinstein-like behavior 
Below are links to the newspaper articles which this week closely followed the accusations of alleged misbehaviour - after a complaint was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York accusing former Artforum publisher Knight Landesman of years of sexual harassment.

I've ordered them by

  • general news titles and then art news titles
  • the prominence of the publication and 
  • the date order of the published articles
It's been difficult keeping up with who said what and when!  

However there is a much bigger picture about abuse of power which also needs to be highlighted - and the debate now seems to be moving in that direction........

News Titles

Amanda Schmitt, a New York curator who started working at the magazine Artforum in 2009, is the plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against its longtime publisher Knight Landesman. CreditCeleste Sloman for The New York Times

Much like Weinstein’s reputation as an alleged serial harasser Landesman’s conduct was “widely, albeit privately, commented on in the art world,” according to the filing.


Artforum (where Knight Landesman used to be a publisher)

Following an inquiry from Artnet regarding a complaint against one of its publishers, Artforum has issued the following statement:“It came to our attention that Knight Landesman was engaged in a close friendship with a former employee which took place well after she left Artforum in 2012. Four years after her departure, in 2016, she brought a complaint to our notice and we acted immediately to address it.Despite the fact that she was not an employee of Artforum, we required that Mr. Landesman attend therapy, and took companywide steps to address any workplace transgressions. At no time was Artforumcomplicit or culpable. In fact, we took her complaint very seriously and used it as an opportunity to strengthen our policies within the workplace.Her subsequent claim for damages, in 2017, one year after her initial complaint, appears to be unfounded, and seems to be an attempt to exploit a relationship that she herself worked hard to create and maintain. For its part, Artforum is proud of its workplace and will continue to ensure that no transgressions whatsoever will be tolerated by any of our employees, under any circumstances.Artforum is devoted to the freedom of expression and we have no wish to silence anyone, nor will we engage in any attempts to do so.”
Artforum released the following statement AFTER his resignation
“This morning, Knight Landesman offered his resignation to the publishers of Artforum and chairman Anthony Korner accepted. In the past days, we have met with our staff and they have told us that Knight Landesman engaged in unacceptable behavior and caused a hostile work environment. We will do everything in our ability to bring our workplace in line with our editorial mission, and we will use this opportunity to transform Artforum into a place of transparency, equity, and with zero tolerance for sexual harassment of any kind. Regretfully, this behavior undermines the feminist ideals we have long strived to stand for. In response, we are creating a special task force of women at the magazine who will oversee this transformation.” 
Artforum | Artforum Issues Statement on Publisher Knight Landesman’s Resignation (25 October 2017)
Yesterday the staff revolted
We, the undersigned staff of Artforum and Bookforum, condemn the way the allegations against Knight Landesman have been handled by our publishers and repudiate the statements that have been issued to represent us so far. 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. 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.

It was interesting to note that

  • the magazine's editor-in-chief Michelle Kuo resigned last week - apparently before the complaint surfaced - with ArtNews providing the explanation below.
  • the magazine's satff are now speaking out about how the magazine is handling the matter
  • the Artforum Facebook Page is pretending nothing happened last week - while all the time their magazine, their publisher and their behaviour have been making the news!

artnet news

Rachel Corbett was the jounalist at artnet news driving the agenda this week. Below are her articles in reverse date order
We, the undersigned staff of Artforum and Bookforum, condemn the way the allegations against Knight Landesman have been handled by our publishers and repudiate the statements that have been issued to represent us so far. 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. 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. (signed by 39 staff members)

The additional reports came to artnet News from five young women who work in the art industry, most of whom are not mentioned in the lawsuit.


the art world has reacted with a mix of surprise and resignation. Some have expressed shock and dismay; others are more fatalistic about what they see as persistent patterns of behavior.
Last week, on October 18, I resigned from my position as Editor of Artforum. I resigned because I felt that, in light of the troubling allegations surrounding one of our publishers, I could no longer serve as a public representative of Artforum. We need to make the art world a more equitable, just, and safe place for women at all levels. And that can only be achieved when organizations and communities are bound by shared trust, honesty, and accountability. Though I may continue to advise the magazine through its transition, my final date as an employee at the magazine was today. I wish the very best to the staff of the magazine.

The initial report, published by Artnet News, revealed that Landesman was involved in a filing for damages being brought against him by a former employee.

It's more complicated than just misconduct

Clearly the shifting social dynamics surrounding allegations of sexual harassment in other cultural realms—by Hollywood tycoon Harvey Weinstein, political reporter Mark Halperin, literary critic Leon Wieseltier, fashion photographer Terry Richardson—have moved into the art world.
The Art World Reacts to Allegations of Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks
However it's about more than just misconduct.

There have been various comments and articles in the past about the behaviour of some individuals in the art world. Indeed Guerrilla Girls have been making this point for years - as they wrote to ArtNews this week
“Almost all women, and many men and trans people have been sexually harassed and/or abused by rich and powerful guys in the workplace,” they wrote to ARTnews. “The art world likes to think of itself as above it all. Guess what: it isn’t.”
One such article was Jerry Salz's 2014 article 2 Big Things Wrong With the Art World As Demonstrated by the September Issue of Artforum in Vulture

This commented on the nature of the advertisements filling ArtForum - all organised, according to Jerry Salz, by Knight Landesman.
The magazine is telling us that the top two-thirds of the art world are mired in self-perpetuating, self-replicating sexism: More art by men is shown and sold in large galleries because more art by men has been shown and sold in large galleries. And the result is not just about what gets shown, but what that teaches us about what is worth showing: the art world as seen in these ads is much more comfortable digesting strange, weird, surprising, and even insane work from men, but gets squeamish whenever women try to show at all.
So where do the power plays over women start and finish....?
Who else in the art world needs to be stopped from abusing their power now?” Sarah Thornton
An interesting development in terms of news surrounding the scandal yesterday was a new article Boycott Artforum? In the Wake of the Knight Landesman Scandal, Galleries Consider Pulling Ads by artnetnews - which would hit Artforum magazine where it hurts - in the wallet. 

After a cataclysmic sexual harassment scandal, advertisers and other figures in the art world are taking a hard look at their relationships with Artforum. Co-publisher Knight Landesman, who was the longstanding rainmaker of its advertising division, is accused of many instances of sexual harassment, one of which has resulted in a lawsuit.
with some galleries taking a very upfront and in your face stance on the matters it raises - and the 303 gallery leading the charge

How many others?

I don't know about anybody else. I think the indicators of the people in the art world who are likely to have abused their power in terms of misconduct are quite loud and there for most people to see.

It's there in their behaviour - and attitudes

It's there in their artwork.

It's there in the reports of their behaviour in articles.

It's there in the way their organisations or teams behave and the actions they tolerate - actions speak louder than words....

They "leak" what they're like all the time.  They infect those around them....  The ramifications go on and on and on....

I bet if we all came up with a list right now of all the people we think might well have allegations made against them, it would very definitely be incomplete - however it might also not be too far from the truth.

Maybe I'll make a list and then pull it out in five years time and see how many have been outed, prosecuted, settled legal claims etc etc etc.

Just how many times do women have to explain:
  • to those in power that "no" means "no"
  • that ignoring when people say "no" means it's non-consensual
  • activities which are non-consensual - involving anybody (men, women, teenagers, children) will come back to haunt you - days, months, years later
and, importantly that
  • women who "trade" in sex are no better than those who abuse other women
  • those who display their power plays over women in terms of who gets highlighted and who gets exhibited are complicit 
There - I've said it.

P.S. I'm not about to name names in public - and anybody who comments and names names will not get published. However if you want to do it on your own publication.......

P.P.S.  I'm finishing with two comments on my Facebook Page this week in relation to this article These Are the Young Female Artists to Watch on Bloomberg

This was my comment
I'm disappointed that paintings of body parts by female artists are selling well at the same time as we have non-stop revelations about how men with power have harassed women in an inappropriate fashion over many years.
Or should we just look at them as women artists ripping off men stupid enough to be enslaved to the objectification of women?
and this was one of the responses
It's always been argued that women who sell images of their bodies/body parts are taking advantage of men who are stupid enough to be enslaved to the objectification of women (page 3 anyone?). But this ignores the fact that it also legitimises the objectification of women by men. All women. Not just the ones who monetise that objectification.

Unfortunately, monetising the objectification of women reduces ALL women to a collection of body parts available for rent/viewing by men no matter where they are or what the context.

Some men don't even bother to pay. Just ask any young woman who happens to be a certain shape. No matter how modestly she dresses and comports herself, many men will still act inappropriately towards her, and then blame HER for being distracting if she has the temerity to object !

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