After a lawsuit accusing Knight Landesman of sexually harassing at least nine women in the past ten years was filed last week, the Artforum magazine publisher and art world icon resigned. Following this news, women in the art world came together to write an open letter condemning not just Landesman's behaviour, but similar attitudes pervasive in their community. The New York Times reports that over 1800 signatures have been added to the letter titled "Not Surprised," including artists like Phyllida Barlow, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tania Bruguera, and Jenny Holzer, whose work "Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise" inspired the rhetoric for the piece.
"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, infantilised, scorned, threatened, and intimidated by those in positions of power who control access to resources and opportunities," it begins. "We have held our tongues, threatened by power wielded over us and promises of institutional access and career advancement."
The letter goes on to specifically detail the inappropriate behaviour women in the art world have been subject to:
"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."
On Wednesday, fellow Artforum publishers released a statement to the Times regarding Landesman's resignation, saying he "engaged in unacceptable behavior and caused a hostile work environment." Moving forward, the publishers promise they 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."
Their pledge echoes the call of the letter, which ends with a specific address to these institutions:
"We, the undersigned — those who have experienced abuse and those standing in solidarity with them — call upon art institutions, boards, and peers to consider their role in the perpetuation of different levels of sexual inequity and abuse, and how they plan to handle these issues in the future."
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.