In light of former Artforum publisher Knight Landesman’s resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct, 2,000 art world professionals including artists, gallerists, writers, curators and editors have signed a letter (published on not-surprised.org) condemning abuse in the international art world. Prominent signatories include artists Cindy Sherman, Ann Hirsch, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger and Collier Schorr, curators Bennett Simpson and Laura Hoptman, and dealer Barbara Gladstone. Read an excerpt—which ends with a reference to one of Holzer’s famous works—from the letter below:
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.
A report published by artnet revealed that Landesman was involved in a filing for damages being brought against him by a former employee. The employee left the publication in 2012, filed a claim against Landesman in 2016 and this year, made a claim for damages. artnet also spoke to a number of men and woman who described encounters with Landesman ranging from unwanted touching, groping, and requests for massages. He responded to these allegations in an email, stating, “I fully recognize that I have tested certain boundaries, which I am working hard to correct.”
In the midst of numerous sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Toback and Terry Richardson, the fashion and entertainment industries are scrambling to put in place regulations to stop abuse in these professions. With action taken against Landesman, it seems the art world is the next industry helping to dismantle the abuse of power and rape culture that both men and women encounter in the workplace far too frequently.