Since the tidal wave of #MeToo posts that sprung up online after the Harvey Weinstein allegations, people in other fields have speaking up about the abuse that runs rampant in their own industries. Stories of harassment and abuse have emerged in the music industry, publishing, and fashion (including the banning of sleazo/creep photog Terry Richardson from several magazines—it's about fucking time)
Today, an open letter posted on the website Not Surprised called for the art world to confront the sexual predators and offenders in their midst. The letter was signed by 1,800 women, trans, and gender non-conforming artists, curators, arts administrators, and educators, including Barbara Kruger, Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman, and Cecily Brown. It’s powerfully written. Here’s an excerpt:
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.
That last line of the excerpt, "Abuse of power comes as no surprise," is a line from artist Jenny Holzer’s first public art project in 1977, Truisms, a collection of phrases that were turned into large-scale installations around Manhattan and then reproduced on t-shirts, mugs, and other products. The full text of the letter can be found here.
A number of Seattle curators and artists also signed the letter, including curator Anne Couillaud, Sharon Arnold of Bridge Productions, Dan Paz and S. Surface, two 2017 curators for The Alice in Georgetown, and artist/educator Dawn Cerny, among others.
The letter was partly in response to the resignation of Artforum co-publisher Knight Landesman last week, who had been with the magazine since the '80s. Nine women have filed a lawsuit accusing Landesman of sexually harassing them at “‘the start of their careers’ when they were “’economically and professionally vulnerable.’”
Additionally, some in the art world have been calling for a boycott of the Artforum, asking galleries to pull their ads, and criticizing the magazine’s reaction to the lawsuit (they originally called the allegations “unfounded”) and their history of complacency in the face of Landesman’s alleged sexual harassment over the years. In fact, Artforum staffers published their own statement—read it here—voicing their dissatisfaction with the way the situation has been handled by the magazine’s publishers.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Kuo, also resigned last Wednesday, stating: “I felt that, in light of the troubling allegations surrounding one of our publishers, I could no longer serve as a public representative of Artforum. We need to make the art world a more equitable, just, and safe place for women at all levels. And that can only be achieved when organizations and communities are bound by shared trust, honesty, and accountability.”