The New York-based arts magazine Artforum has settled an unlawful retaliation lawsuit brought by its former employee Amanda Schmitt in 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Schmitt accused Artforum‘s former publisher Knight Landesman of sexually harassing her for years during and after her tenure at the publication and retaliating against her when she and other women went public with the allegations.
“I am pleased that my case against Artforum has been resolved to my satisfaction,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Whilst this has been a long and challenging chapter in my life, I know I did what is right, I feel I have contributed to the advancement of women’s rights, and I will continue to be committed to feminist ideals.”
Additionally, Landesman is no longer a co-owner of the magazine, a spokesperson for Artforum told Hyperallergic. The former publisher resigned in October 2017, after Schmitt and at least eight other women came forward with allegations of pervasive groping, inappropriate touching, and lewd messages. He was subsequently removed from the magazine’s board of directors and retained no voting rights. But Landesman remained a co-owner, controlling an undisclosed number of shares in the company, Hyperallergic editor-in-chief and co-founder Hrag Vartanian revealed in a February 2018 essay.
In response to questions about Landesman’s stake in the company, Artforum said at the time, “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.”
Artforum has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s inquiry regarding the timeline of Landesman’s divestment, but the magazine’s spokesperson confirmed that he is “no longer an Artforum shareholder.”
Schmitt worked at the publication as an intern and a circulation assistant from 2009 to 2012. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Landesman in the fall of 2017, but the suit was dismissed on the basis that the five-year statute of limitations had expired. Instead, Schmitt filed a motion against Landesman for aggressively confronting her about her allegations at a restaurant in May 2017, and against Artforum for breaching their promise to protect her against Landesman’s advances.
The court initially dismissed those accusations as well, but Schmitt’s lawyer, Emily Reisbaum, filed an appeal in 2018, and the retaliation case against Artforum was allowed to move forward in 2020. The charges against Landesman, however, remained dismissed. The appeals court decision, Reisbum said, held Artforum “accountable for its efforts to undermine her professionally after she sounded the alarm about Knight Landesman’s years of abuse.”
Last Friday, March 12, Artforum published a brief statement on its website confirming a settlement on the lawsuit had been reached.
“The leadership of Artforum and Amanda Schmitt have worked to achieve a resolution of the lawsuit filed in October 2017,” the magazine said. “Both parties wish to move forward with a spirit of good will.”
The case against Landesman was one of the first high-profile #MeToo stories in the art world as the movement rapidly gained steam worldwide. According to reports by Artnet News, over 20 women came forward with their own experiences with Landesman in the wake of Schmitt’s allegations. Hundreds of women in the arts, including Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman, and Lynn Nottage, signed an open letter condemning Landesman’s actions and denouncing rampant sexism and sexual harassment in the industry.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.