The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 Friday, April 3, 2020


Artforum lawsuit can go forward, but not the claims against Landesman
Amanda Schmitt, the former Artforum employee who filed a complaint in late 2017 against the magazine and Knight Landesman, in New York, on Oct. 25, 2017. In a ruling on one of the art world’s notable #MeToo lawsuits, a court found that Artforum magazine can be held responsible for retaliation against a former employee but that Knight Landesman, the influential former publisher whom the employee accused of sexual harassment, legally remains in the clear. Celeste Sloman/The New York Times.

by Nancy Coleman


NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- In a ruling on one of the art world’s notable #MeToo lawsuits, a court found that Artforum magazine can be held responsible for retaliation against a former employee — but that Knight Landesman, the influential former publisher whom the employee accused of sexual harassment, legally remains in the clear.

Amanda Schmitt, who started at Artforum in 2009 when she was 21, filed a complaint in late 2017. Landesman — accused in the lawsuit of groping, attempting to kiss and sending lewd messages to at least nine women in incidents stretching back a decade — resigned hours later.

Early last year, the lawsuit was dismissed. But a New York appeals court reversed parts of that decision last week, in a ruling first reported by Artnet News. Landesman still can’t be sued for retaliation, but the decision leaves Artforum open to legal action. (Lawyers for Artforum and Landesman declined to comment Thursday.)

Rather than suing for workplace sexual misconduct, for which the statute of limitations had run out, Schmitt had instead filed a retaliation claim: In May 2017, she said, Landesman had cornered her at a restaurant and demanded an explanation for having been “unfairly accused.” Too much time, however, had passed between her employment at Artforum — Schmitt left the magazine in 2012 — and the confrontation to qualify as retaliation, the judge ruled in January 2019.

The explicit messages from Landesman continued after Schmitt left the magazine, and she brought her concerns to two of Artforum’s other co-publishers in June 2016. Schmitt, who still works in the art world, claimed in the lawsuit that after that meeting, the magazine began excluding her from its events — which she said are essential for business development and meeting others in the industry.

A year later, when Schmitt began taking legal action, the magazine denied her allegations in a staff meeting and told employees that she was trying to “take down Artforum.”

Though the claims against Landesman remain dismissed, the magazine’s “verbal and written disparagement” of Schmitt, the court decided last week, along with “allegations that Artforum sought to effectively freeze her out of the close-knit business,” are still pertinent.

Landesman had been a powerful mainstay in the art industry, and the allegations against him in 2017 represented a shift in the #MeToo reckoning. After he stepped down from Artforum, hundreds of artists, writers, curators and directors signed an open letter condemning him and vowing to address sexual misconduct in the art world.

Schmitt’s lawyer, Emily Reisbaum, said in a statement that the appeals court decision holds the magazine “accountable for its efforts to undermine her professionally after she sounded the alarm about Knight Landesman’s years of abuse.”

She added, “There is now no doubt, as Schmitt has been saying all along, that Artforum not only permitted Landesman’s abuse to pervade its workplace and prestigious events, but it also punished Schmitt — not Landesman — for speaking the truth about his perversity.”

© 2020 The New York Times Company










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