Commentary

'Artforum' Co-Publisher Resigns After Harassment Claims

The extended fallout of the media industry’s current sexual harassment scandal includes some highbrow magazine media dons, felled by claims leading to their own admissions of transgressions against female colleagues and acquaintances over a number of decades.

In the latest (incredibly creepy and hair-raising) case, Knight Landesman, 67, one of four co-publishers of Artforum magazine and a “titan in the art advertising world,” per the New York Daily News, stands accused of sexual harassment, intimidation, and other abuses in a civil lawsuit brought by a former employee, Amanda Schmitt.

In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, seeking $500,000 in damages, Schmitt alleges that after she was hired as circulation director at age 21, from 2009-2012, Landesman subjected her to unrelenting sexual harassment, including unwanted physical contact and verbal harassment continuing after she left the company.

At first, Artforum stated that Landesman was seeking therapy, but later announced that it had accepted his resignation, ruefully conceding: “Regretfully, this behavior undermines the feminist ideals we have long strived to stand for.”

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The lawsuit alleges: “Artforum has played by the old rules: let the powerful, sexually predatory boss take advantage of the young, powerless woman who reports to him; maintain the boss in his position of power; try to silence the young woman; and if she speaks out, then lie to downplay the boss’s misconduct.”

The lawsuit claims to have corroborating testimony from seven other Artforum female employees, who are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Among other odd transgressions, Schmitt, who now works as a curator and art fair director, alleges that Landesman instructed her to incorporate sexual tension into advertising sales, and in December 2012, emailed her: “Give yourself to me! ALL of you = to all of me, Our own deeply secret, deeply special, no boundaries, in friendship.” 

As noted, this is just the latest high-profile unmasking at a high-brow publication.

Leon Wieseltier, the formidable former literary editor of The New Republic, recently found support for his new magazine Idea pulled by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, after a number of women, including former New Republic colleagues, came forward with claims of unwanted sexual contact and advances over the years.

Vox Media dismissed editorial director Lockhart Steele over allegations of sexual misconduct, which Steele admitted were true, according to Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff. The allegations surfaced in an anonymous blog post on Medium accusing an unnamed Vox vice-president of harassment. 

As previously reported, sexual harassment at media companies has been brought to light recently by a shared document titled “Shitty Media Men.” Compiled by women in the industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the document lists allegations of sexual harassment by men in the media.

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