Artforum Publisher Quits After Sexual Harassment Complaint

  • Curator alleges Landesman touched her inappropriately
  • Schmitt says magazine retaliated against her for complaints

Knight Landesman, the co-publisher of an influential art magazine, resigned after a former employee accused him of smearing her reputation following years of harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

Amanda Schmitt, a New York curator and director of programming and development at Untitled art fairs, sued Artforum International Magazine and Landesman, claiming he regularly "groped young women, made vulgar sexual remarks to them, and insisted they accept his disgusting overtures if they wanted his assistance to thrive in the art world."

Knight Landesman

Photographer: Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

It’s the latest in a series of high-profile accusations against powerful men in the media, entertainment industry and publishing. The biggest bombshell fell earlier this month when The New York Times and The New Yorker published articles in which numerous women claimed film producer Harvey Weinstein engaged in years of predatory behavior.

Roger Ailes resigned last year as head of Fox News after a former anchor claimed she was fired for refusing his sexual advances. His exit was followed by the network’s star anchor, Bill O’Reilly, after it was revealed he made payments to at least six women to avoid harassment lawsuits. Ailes, who died in May, had denied any wrongdoing, as has O’Reilly. Weinstein denied any nonconsensual sexual conduct with any women.

A former circulation assistant at the magazine, who began working at Artforum in 2009 at the age of 21, Schmitt said Landesman, a man decades her senior, made lewd remarks and touched her inappropriately in the office. He continued to harass her long after she left the company, she said.

After complaining, the company told its employees that her claims were "unjust" and that she had had a "consensual and non physical" relationship with Landesman, according to the lawsuit.

Colorful Suits

A ubiquitous presence on the international art scene, Landesman is know for his colorful suits in orange, yellow and red and irreverent demeanor. He is frequently accompanied by beautiful young women, often much taller than he is.

In a statement Wednesday, Artforum said Landesman resigned. The magazine said that its staff members disclosed that Landesman had engaged in "unacceptable behavior and caused a hostile work environment." The magazine said it would create a task force of female employees who would lead workplace reform effort.

"We will use this opportunity to transform Artforum into a place of transparency, equity, and with zero tolerance for sexual harassment of any kind," the magazine’s remaining publishers Anthony Korner, Charles Guarino and Danielle McConnell said in the statement.

Schmitt’s lawyer, Emily Reisbaum, said it was about time that Artforum took action to address the problem.

“We applaud Amanda Schmitt, and all the other women (and men) who came forward and spoke out to bring about this change,” Reisbaum said in an emailed statement. “But Artforum and Landesman are still accountable for the harms that they caused, even as recently as yesterday.”

Chelsea Dealers Tighten Belts, Slash Parties, Fairs, Gold Dust

Artforum is an influential international magazine, where critical reviews are accompanied by ads for galleries from around the world. Its thickness -- or thinness -- are considered an informal barometer of the health of the art market.

One aspect of Landesman’s role at Artforum, where he’s worked since the early 1980s, was to solicit advertisements from galleries and other institutions, according to the complaint. Up to 70 percent of the magazine’s pages can be taken up with advertisements, according to court papers.

Schmitt’s allegations were reported earlier by Artnet News. In response to that report, Artforum said it "acted immediately" to address Schmitt’s complaint in 2016, four years after she left the magazine. The magazine said it required Landesman to attend therapy and "took companywide steps to address any workplace transgressions."

Schmitt is seeking at least $500,000 in damages, plus punitive damages, for claims of retaliation, slander, gross negligence and defamation.

Attempts to reach Landesman by phone weren’t successful.

The case is Schmitt v. Artforum International Magazine Inc. et al, 159464-2017, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.

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