In a statement posted on its website, Artforum responded to reports from earlier this week that Knight Landesman, formerly one of its publishers, was still a co-owner of the publication. The unsigned statement claims that Landesman currently retains no influence over the magazine, and that, though “there are no legal means by which Artforum can simply divest him of his shares,” the company is currently in the process of attempting to recover them.
Landesman was accused of sexual harassment this past October by a group of women, including Amanda Schmitt, who went public with stories of his misconduct. He resigned that same month after their stories were published by Artnet News, ARTnews, and other publications. Schmitt filed a complaint against Landesman and Artforum, who are being represented by two different lawyers. (A representative for the publication has, in prior interviews, emphasized that Artforum and Landesman are operating as separate entities in the suit.) In early December, Artforum filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, citing a campaign on Schmitt’s part to “take down” the magazine.
Earlier this week, an essay by Hyperallergic editor-in-chief Hrag Vartanian revealed that Landesman is still co-owner of Artforum. Yesterday, the group We Are Not Surprised issued a letter demanding that Landesman be removed from the magazine entirely and that Artforum retract its December motion to dismiss the suit.
Artforum’s statement from today reads as follows:
Artforum wishes to respond to recent assertions in the media. The magazine is in no way joined to Knight Landesman’s defense, nor is it pursuing the dismissal of Amanda Schmitt’s claims against him. Artforum stands in opposition to Mr. Landesman’s behavior, and nothing the magazine has submitted to the court defends his actions. Artforum’s attorney is submitting arguments to dismiss the case against the magazine, and not the case against Mr. Landesman. The magazine must address the specific allegations against it as they stand before the court.
Since the termination of Mr. Landesman’s employment at Artforum on October 25, 2017, he has been removed from the Board of Directors. He has received no remuneration as a consequence of his shareholdings, and retains no voting rights or influence over the company. Regrettably, there are no legal means by which Artforum can simply divest him of his shares, though the company is actively engaged in the process of recovering them.
In response to the above, Schmitt’s legal team said in a statement sent this afternoon, “Artforum’s legal position in the case is in lockstep with Landesman’s. Both Artforum and Landesman have asked the court to strike from the record all of Amanda’s allegations about Landesman’s harassment, and both Artforum and Landesman defended Landesman’s slanders of Amanda as ‘pure opinion.’ When Amanda reported Landesman’s harassment and retaliation to Artforum, the magazine responded by defaming her to the press, to the magazine’s employees, and on the Artforum website as an opportunistic liar who had ‘worked hard’ to encourage a ‘consensual’ relationship with Landesman and then made ‘unjust’ and ‘unfounded’ claims of harassment to ‘exploit’ that ‘friendship.’ Artforum stood with Landesman then, and it stands with him now.”
This evening, Artforum’s legal team filed a response to Schmitt’s lawyer’s call for the case to continue on as planned. The team writes that Schmitt’s case was “woefully deficient,” and that Schmitt’s legal team has “failed to provide any valid basis for her inclusion of numerous irrelevant and scandalous allegations involving other women and conduct that is not actionable, as well as inadmissible settlement negotiations.”
Update, February 9, 2018, 6:10 p.m.: Information about the response from Artforum’s legal team has been added to the post.