Artists including Cindy Sherman and Jenny Holzer call out sexual harassment in the art world

30 October 2017

An open letter calling out sexual harassment and the unequal treatment of women across the art world has been published in reaction to the resignation of Artforum publisher Knight Landesman. The letter on a website called Not Surprised is signed by over 1,850 people including high profile artists, curators and writers such as Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Rosemarie Trockel, Heather Phillipson, Phyllida Barlow, Cecily Brown, Catherine Opie, Miranda July, Hannah Perry, Helen Marten and Julie Mehretu.

The letter’s title draws from an extract of a Jenny Holzer piece, which is quoted in the letter: “Abuse of power comes as no surprise”. It describes the ways in which its signatories have been subject to sexual misconduct, including a specific line targeting the publisher.

“We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favours. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticise, minimise, and hide sexually abusive behaviour by artists they represent. We are not surprised when a meeting with a collector or a potential patron becomes a sexual proposition. We are not surprised when we are retaliated against for not complying. We are not surprised when Knight Landesman gropes us in the art fair booth while promising he’ll help us with our career.”

Landesman resigned on 25 October after Artnet reported allegations of sexual harassment made by a number of women and men. In response he told the site “I fully recognise that I have tested certain boundaries, which I am working hard to correct”. The open letter says it stemmed from a group discussion surrounding his resignation, which branched out to a “larger, more insidious problem” of abuse of power and lack of equality across the art industry. The publication of this letter aims to encourage more to speak out and share experiences, in order to topple offenders and confront abuse.

Abuse of power comes as no surprise. Link with full list of signatures in bio. Twitter: @Not_Surprised1 #notsurprised

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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