Knight Landesman’s co-ownership of Artforum and magazine’s legal battle with former staffer criticised

© Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

We Are Not Surprised (WANS), the international activist coalition highlighting and fighting sexual harassment in the artworld, has denounced the continued involvement of Knight Landesman as co-owner of Artforum magazine and protested the magazine's move to dismiss a legal case brought by ex-staffer Amanda Schmitt, one of Landesman's principle accusers. WANS was formed in October last year amidst allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Landesman and other men in the industry.

In the aftermath of the allegations against Landesman, who stepped down as co-publisher but is believed to have kept his stake in the company, Artforum editor-in-chief Michelle Kuo also resigned. She was replaced by editor David Velasco.

The letter, issued by WANS, is published in full below.

Three months later, WANS is still NOT SURPRISED. Knight Landesman remains co-owner of Artforum, and while new editor-in-chief David Velasco and the editorial staff have been busy crafting “intersectional feminist” content for the magazine, Artforum's publishers and lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit, calling the harassment she and other women suffered “irrelevant.”

WANS can’t stand for this. In October, we wrote, “Many institutions and individuals with power in the art world espouse the rhetoric of feminism and equity in theory, often financially benefiting from these flimsy claims of progressive politics, while preserving oppressive and harmful sexist norms in practice.” This is precisely what Artforum has done, and Landesman profits directly from it.

And so we, the artists, art workers, curators, gallerists, and writers of WANS, call on signatories of our original letter to not read, work with, or advertise in Artforum or its affiliates until the following steps are taken:

1. Knight Landesman must be fully removed from co-ownership of the magazine. He must not benefit financially in any capacity from Artforum’s new “intersectional feminist” editorial mission.

2. Artforum must retract its motion to dismiss Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit, as well as its request to strike all allegations of Landesman’s harassment from the case. Artforum’s publishers and lawyers must proceed along the same ethical line that its editorial department now espouses: remember, an intersectional feminist ethics is dependent on processes of accountability. Artforum, we want to be your readers, your supporters, your community. This is what a community accountability process looks like.

WANS signatories and supporters: as a show of your participation in this boycott, post this statement on your website or social media profile. Make it known to Artforum’s publishers: your money, your labor, and your art will not line the pockets of an abuser.

We support the recent editorial work of Artforum’s writers and editorial staff; unfortunately, such content appears as little more than a façade of feminist, anti-abuse, and anti-racist rhetoric and posturing so long as Artforum’s publishers and lawyers fight to erase Amanda Schmitt and many, many others’ experiences of misogyny, harassment, and abuse of power. We’re tired of the sweet talk and empty politics.

8 February 2018