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Artforum Posts Statement After Boycott Letter, and Amanda Schmitt’s Attorneys Respond [UPDATED]

Artforum released a statement distancing itself from former publisher Knight Landesman. Attorneys for former employee Amanda Schmitt responded.

Statue of Themis, an ancient Greek personification of law and justice, in Brisbane (photo by Rae Allen/Flickr)
Statue of Themis, an ancient Greek personification of law and justice, in Brisbane (photo by Rae Allen/Flickr)

On Friday afternoon, Artforum responded to growing concern about its role in the harassment-related lawsuit brought against the publication and its co-owner, Knight Landesman, by former employee Amanda Schmitt. In a statement posted on its website (and included in full at the end of this article), the magazine said it is in no way allied with Landesman in seeking the dismissal of Schmitt’s lawsuit. (Both have filed motions to do so.) The statement also said that the co-owner no longer has any influence over the magazine.

Landesman “has received no remuneration as a consequence of his shareholdings, and retains no voting rights or influence over the company,” the statement reads in part. “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.”

The magazine’s response comes the same week as mounting criticism of its handling of Landesman’s alleged misconduct, and one day after a call by prominent activists to boycott the publication.

In response to the magazine’s statement, Schmitt’s legal team provided the following statement to Hyperallergic:

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.

As we reported on Monday, February 4, Artforum has not responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for on-the-record comment since January 18, 2018. Yesterday, attorneys for Artforum and Landesman did not respond to new requests for comment.

Artforum‘s full statement is included below.

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.

UPDATE, Friday, February 9, 2018, 10:20pm EDT: Artforum’s legal team has provided a statement to Artnews that says they will not alter their position on the Schmitt lawsuit, and they claim 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.”

Artforum is represented by Bettina Plevan, a high-profile lawyer who, according to Artnet News, “defended Penthouse founder Bob Guccione in his sexual harassment lawsuit in 2009 and later defended New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver against accusations that he fostered a workplace environment that was hostile to women.”

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