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Yesterday, former Artforum publisher Knight Landesman called on a New York court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Amanda Schmitt, a former Artforum employee. The magazine also filed a motion for dismissal earlier this month.
In her suit, in which both Landesman and Artforum are named as defendants, Schmitt alleges that the publisher sexually harassed her during and after her time working at the publication; the suit also cites the allegations of eight other women, though Schmitt is the sole plaintiff. After the allegations and lawsuit were first made public in October, Landesman resigned from his position as a publisher at Artforum.
Landesman’s motion to dismiss the case hinges not only on the alleged sexual harassment, but also on an incident in May of this year, when Schmitt claims he slandered her in an act of retaliation. According to ArtNews, the incident took place at a New York restaurant: Schmitt confronted Landesman about his past behavior and he said he was being “unfairly accused” and called on others in attendance to “help [her] understand the reality,” according to Schmitt’s suit. However, Landesman’s attorney claims that his client’s actions on that day do not amount to retaliation and his comments were “clearly statements of opinion, not fact, and thus cannot be actionable,” adding that “the only ‘conduct’ engaged in by Landesman … was his general denial of Schmitt’s claim.”
In its own motion to dismiss Schmitt’s lawsuit, filed earlier this month, a lawyer for the magazine’s publisher, Artforum International Magazine, Inc., made a similar argument. “All of this verbiage has, not surprisingly, generated extensive media coverage characterizing this suit as a sexual harassment complaint,” the motion, quoted by ArtNews, states. “But the Courts do not exist to serve the public relations objectives of the parties.”
Schmitt’s suit against Artforum includes slander and retaliation, allegations also made against Landesman, and additional accusations of defamation and gross negligence stemming from the magazine’s treatment of her claims, which she first brought to management’s attention in 2016. After Artforum‘s management released statements disputing and criticizing Schmitt’s claims, the magazine’s staff released a statement of its own condemning management’s response.
In the aftermath of the allegations by Schmitt and eight other women against Landesman, more than 1,800 artists and art workers signed an open letter calling for an end to sexual harassment. “This open letter stems from a group discussion about sexual harassment within our field, following the recent revelation of Knight Landesman’s sexual misconduct. The conversation has branched out further and internationally,” it reads in part. “Those in power ignore, excuse, or commit everyday instances of harassment and degradation, creating an environment of acceptance of and complicity in many more serious, illegal abuses of power.”
Hyperallergic is committed to reporting on sexual harassment in the art world. If you have a story about personal or institutional abuse in our field, please write to Claire Voon at firstname.lastname@example.org.