5000 Artists Sign Open Letter Condemning Sexual Harassment In Their Industry [Updated]

Jenny Holzer. Image via AP.
Jenny Holzer. Image via AP.

Hundreds of artists have signed a letter condemning Knight Landesman, the publisher of Artforum, who resigned last Wednesday after being accused of sexual harassment by nine different women. A website for the letter opens on Jenny Holzer’s work, “Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise.”


The New York Times reports that the letter was conceived of on a WhatsApp chat that included women working in the art world. With 24 hours of the Landesman news, it ballooned from a few dozen people to hundreds. Signers of the letter include Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman, Lynn Nottage, Phyllida Barlow, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tania Bruguera, and Jenny Holzer, who gave permission for her work to be used. It reads, in part:

We are not surprised.

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. We have held our tongues, threatened by power wielded over us and promises of institutional access and career advancement.

The letter credits Landesman’s case as an igniting factor for a discussion of how abuse is upheld within the art industry, but MOMA PS1 curator Ruba Katrib told the NYT that he is but one perpetrator and the letter is just a first step.

“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.”

Artforum has initiated its own internal reckoning, with staff signing another public letter regarding Landesman, stating they’re committed to “to gender justice and to the eradication of sexual harassment in the art community and beyond.” Beyond must be everywhere, because lately it seems there is no place to go in a career or for simple entertainment that is free of sexual harassment. Art!


The new open letter from these artists, curators and directors includes a social media campaign as the beginning of action, though organizers will “continue to address and act upon these issues as part of a larger process, building the next steps through the feedback we receive.” Interestingly, the letter also states that the signers refuse to participate in the “task forceArtforum has proposed as a way to right matters at the publication, writing that they refuse to “solve a problem that is perpetrated upon us.”


Correction/Update: An earlier version of this story identified the signatories as solely women; in fact, they include all genders, including trans and nonbinary/nonconforming people. Additionally, an earlier version of this story noted that 500 people started the letter; in fact, it was written by 150 people, launched with 1800 signatories, and by 5 p.m. Monday, had grown to 5000 signatories. Jezebel regrets the error.



One of the moments in college that stood out for me was in a Professional Practices class, our teacher (a woman!) specifically outlined how women were to dress when showing off their portfolios because “it wasn’t going to help you.” It was assumed that women were GOING to dress provocatively to get their foot in the door and that we wouldn’t be taken seriously. And then people started talking about the women in the industry who dressed “inappropriately” and how oh yeah, their work really wasn’t that good and this must just be how women got in.

To this day that makes me angry, especially since I can count on one hand the number of women in my major (4).