Female Artists Pen Letter Against Sexual Harassment

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Jenny Holzer was among the artists who signed an open letter pledging to fight against sexism in the art world. Credit Ander Gillenea/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Over 500 female artists, writers, curators and directors have signed an open letter condemning the publisher of Artforum, Knight Landesman, and pledging to fight against sexism and sexual harassment in the art world.

“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 reads. “We will be silenced no longer.” Signers include Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman, Lynn Nottage, Phyllida Barlow, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Tania Bruguera. Jenny Holzer, who also signed the letter, gave permission for the group to use the text from her work, “Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise.”

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Lynn Nottage also signed the letter, which said, “We will be silenced no longer.” Credit Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

Mr. Landesman resigned from his longtime post as publisher of the magazine on Wednesday after a lawsuit was filed accusing him of sexually harassing at least nine women. More women have since come forward with stories alleging his misconduct. Michelle Kuo, the magazine’s editor in chief, also resigned, and the magazine’s staff posted a note criticizing its publisher. A spokesperson for the magazine said all contact with Mr. Landesman has been suspended, and that while three advertisers have pulled out of future issues, far more have pledged their continued support to the magazine.

The open letter calls on art institutions to remove offenders and confront inequality and abuse. “Your actions will no longer be a secret, whispered amongst us for fear of ostracization, professional shunning, and recrimination. Where we see the abuse of power, we resolve to speak out.”

The letter emerged out of a group WhatsApp chat among ten members of the art community Oct. 24. Within 24 hours, the number of participants had ballooned to more than 125. “The idea came very quickly to draft this letter. It was amazing to witness this huge group of people across different continents formulating this letter together,” said Vanessa Carlos, a co-founder of the London gallery Carlos/Ishikawa, who was on the original group chat. “There are a lot of stories that women shared in the WhatsApp group, and a lot of them are not ready to come forward publicly. It was really hurtful to know that they still didn’t feel they could come forward, even in the current conversation.”

The letter also announces the start of an online campaign, Not Surprised, across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “This is really an initial step of what most people have expressed desire to be a longer-term engagement,” Ruba Katrib, who is curator at MoMA PS1 and signed the letter, said. “There’s a real recognition that needs to take place that this is an actual problem and affects a huge percentage of people working in the contemporary art industry.”

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