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Court Dismisses Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Artforum and Knight Landesman

In further news: a conspicuous absence in Munich’s Haus Der Kunst’s 2019 programming; US government shutdown forces Smithsonian museums to close

Knight Landesman, 2017. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan

Knight Landesman, 2017. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan

New York’s Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Artforum magazine and its former publisher Knight Landesman, accused of sexually harassing several women. The magazine’s former employee Amanda Schmitt had accused Landesman of ‘unwelcome physical contact and repulsive written and oral demands for intimacy.’ The complaint also included claims from nine women who alleged similar experiences. The case, filed in October 2017, swiftly led to Landesman’s resignation, and became a much-cited episode in the art world’s #MeToo movement. But Judge Frank P. Nervo said on 20 December that the suit had partially failed to meet requirements for causes of action. With the expiry of a three-year statute of limitations, Schmitt was unable to sue for workplace sexual misconduct. She instead brought a retaliation claim, alleging that Landesman ‘slandered and humiliated’ her in a restaurant in May 2017, claiming that she had ‘unfairly accused him of sexual harassment’. Judge Nervo said that the five years between Schmitt’s employment at Artforum and the restaurant encounter eliminated ‘any nexus between her employment and the alleged acts.’ He said that Landesman’s ‘words were spoken in a purely social setting. Nor can it be said that [his] words were improper.’ Schmitt’s lawyer told the New York Times that they were considering an appeal. Artforum said in a statement: ‘Despite the fact that the lawsuit has been dismissed, we remain firm in our commitment to create a safe and equitable workplace for our employees and associates.’

Munich’s Haus Der Kunst’s 2019 exhibition programme has a conspicuous absence: there’s no mention of its long-planned Adrian Piper retrospective, which was set to travel from New York’s MoMA and Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum this year. (In November frieze reported on the cancellation of Adrian Piper’s exhibition. Earlier in 2018, the museum cancelled its Joan Jonas show, citing budget constraints.) Under its new commercial director Bernhard Spies, the beleaguered German museum will run a retrospective of controversial German artist Markus Lüpertz. This follows a retrospective of the artist’s long-time friend Jörg Immendorff (both are represented by the gallery Michael Werner). As a new article in Munich’s Suddeutsche Zeitung notes, there’s a familiar pattern at work: In 2008, Spies was hired by Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle to solve that institution’s budget woes. Under Spies, a long-planned Rosemarie Trockel exhibition was called off – and duly replaced by a Markus Lüpertz show. Three women artists replaced by the same German painter – coincidence or not? Read frieze’s thoughts on the Haus der Kunst here.

An Argentinian court has ordered the seizure of more than 30 paintings, reportedly worth USD$4 million, from the country’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is awaiting trial for corruption. Part of an ongoing investigation, the raid was carried out last Thursday at Fernández’s home in Buenos Aires. The order was first approved in August, according to AFP. Judge Claudio Bonadio gave investigators permission to search three of Kirchner’s properties after parliament lifted the immunity associated with her current role as senator. She is accused of accepting tens of millions of dollars in bribes and operating a criminal network. The court has also seized roughly USD$38 million worth of Kirchner’s assets. 

Washington’s Smithsonian museum network has been forced to close due to the US’s partial government shutdown. All 19 Smithsonian museums are currently closed to visitors as the federal government shutdown on 22 December has now caused them to run out of money. The city’s National Gallery of Art has also closed to the public with its employees being furloughed and its online shop deactivated. The shutdown is the result of a budget impasse reached over funding for US president Trump’s pledge to build a border wall with Mexico. The closures will continue until Congress passes funding legislation, signed by Trump.

Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca will represent Brazil at this year’s Venice Biennale. Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro has been named as curator of the pavilion. The artist duo, based in Recife, have been presenting work together since 2011. Don’t miss Evan Moffitt writing on how Wagner and De Burca’s films probe economics, race and gender in Brazilian popular music.

London’s National Gallery is planning a major Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition for 2020. The exhibition of the Italian Renaissance painter’s work, which will showcase paintings that have almost universally accepted attributions, will reveal ‘the real Artemisia’, curator Letizia Treves has said. Loan requests are now being considered by artwork owners: the gallery hopes to show one of Gentileschi’s most important works, Self-portrait as a Lute Player (1615-18), currently held at Connecticut’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The National Gallery purchased Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (c.1615-17) last year for GBP£3.6 million, becoming just the 21st artwork by a woman in the institution’s permanent collection of 2,300 Western European paintings. The painting has since had concerns raised over its provenance, and has been added to a gallery watchlist of works that may have been ‘improperly acquired’ during World War Two.

The TV art historian Sister Wendy Beckett has died at the age of 88. Her death was confirmed by the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, England. The Oxford-educated Roman Catholic nun, born in South Africa in 1930, rose to international fame with a series of BBC documentaries exploring the history of art, including programmes such as Sister Wendy’s Odyssey and Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour. The BBC’s director of arts Jonty Claypole commented: ‘Sister Wendy had a unique presentation style, a deep knowledge of and passion for the arts.’ 

In gallery news: San Francisco’s Altman Siegel gallery now represents the Irish photographer Richard Mosse; New York’s American Medium gallery, founded in 2012, has closed; and New York’s Marinaro gallery has added artist Anthony Iacono to its roster.

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