More than 7,000 women denounce sexual harassment in art world

AFP , Tuesday 31 Oct 2017

sexual harassment
Graffiti condemning sexual harassment in Cairo. Archival photo, 2013 (Photo: Ahram Online)

Cindy Sherman, Laurie Anderson and Jenny Holzer joined more than 7,000 women, including some of the biggest names in contemporary art, to denounce sexual harassment by people who hold positions of power in their milieu.

The open letter followed last week's resignation of Knight Landesman, an art world figure known for his colorful suits, as co-publisher of leading arts magazine Artforum, after a lawsuit was filed accusing him of sexual harassment.

"We are artists, arts administrators, assistants, curators, directors, editors, educators, gallerists, interns, scholars, students, writers and more -- workers of the art world -- and we have been groped, undermined, harassed, infantilized, scorned, threatened and intimidated by those in positions of power who control access to resources and opportunities," the letter read.

The text was titled "Not Surprised," in reference to a work by Holzer, known for her installations with broad statements.

"Abuse of power comes as no surprise," the letter read.

The complaint against Landesman was filed by former Artforum employee Amanda Schmitt, and it made allegations of sexual harassment against eight other people.

Landesman is only the latest high-profile figure at the center of claims of abuse in the wake of the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"There is an urgent need to share our accounts of widespread sexism, unequal and inappropriate treatment, harassment and sexual misconduct, which we experience regularly, broadly and acutely," the open letter read.

"The resignation of one publisher from one high-profile magazine does not solve the larger, more insidious problem: an art world that upholds inherited power structures at the cost of ethical behavior," it continued.

"We have been silenced, ostracized, pathologized, dismissed as 'overreacting' and threatened when we have tried to expose sexually and emotionally abusive behavior.

"We will be silenced no longer."

Curator Martha Kirszenbaum, who is among the letter's first 100 signatories and confirmed the latest total number of signatures, told AFP that "the Weinstein scandal paved the way for revelations in many other circles."

"We realized that we had all experienced this sort of thing," added Kirszenbaum.

Since revelations first became public earlier this month against Harvey, who has been accused of harassment, assault or rape by dozens of women, other figures have been similarly felled in journalism, haute cuisine, fashion and other fields.

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