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‘Not Surprised’ Group Calls for Removal of Knight Landesman as Artforum Co-Owner, Withdrawal of Magazine’s Motion Against Amanda Schmitt Suit [UPDATED]

A work by Jenny Holzer on view in Times Square in 1982.

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A little more than three months after it released an open letter condemning sexual harassment in the art world, the group We Are Not Surprised (WANS) has issued a new statement calling for Knight Landesman, the Artforum co-publisher who stepped down in October after being accused of sexual harassment, to “be fully removed from co-ownership of the magazine.”

The new letter also calls on Artforum to withdraw a motion it has filed that asks both for the dismissal of the suit brought against the magazine and Landesman by curator Amanda Schmitt and for the striking of allegations from additional women contained in that suit.

Until those steps are taken, the statement reads, “the gallerists, artists, curators, writers, and art workers of WANS . . . call on signatories of our original letter to not read, work with, or advertise in Artforum or its affiliates.”

The new statement, which follows in full below, comes days after a story in Hyperallergic that highlighted Landesman’s continued partial ownership of the magazine. Today’s letter reads, “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.”

Responding over email to a question from ARTnews about future actions from WANS, an anonymous member of WANS and a gallery director member wrote that in addition to supporting Schmitt, they will also be working on other such situations as they arise. “[W]e are also aware of other issues transpiring as well, which warrant different actions and are working on how best to proceed,” the two members wrote. “We’ve been working quietly for several months, holding organizational meetings internationally to develop an industry-wide code of conduct. We are committed to holding our institutions accountable for harassment and abusive behavior, and WANS will demand that professional organizations who oversee ethics–museums, galleries, art fairs–update their policies to make more specific, zero-tolerance codes of conduct.” The members added that the group “will host public meetings in multiple cities worldwide on March 8, International Women’s Day, and will release information about these events shortly.”

Here’s the letter:

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 gallerists, artists, curators, writers, and art workers 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. Show us that you mean what you say in print. Until then, we won’t be having any of it.

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