Boycott Artforum? In the Wake of the Knight Landesman Scandal, Galleries Consider Pulling Ads

303 Gallery will suspend its advertising until it sees "real, systematic changes."

A 2016 Artforum cover.
A 2016 Artforum cover.

After a cataclysmic sexual harassment scandal, advertisers and other figures in the art world are taking a hard look at their relationships with Artforum. Co-publisher Knight Landesman, who was the longstanding rainmaker of its advertising division, is accused of many instances of sexual harassment, one of which has resulted in a lawsuit.

“I don’t plan to advertise in the magazine until we see real, systematic changes,” the New York dealer Lisa Spellman, who owns 303 Gallery, told artnet News by phone. “We will watch how the publishers handle the current lawsuit and what kind of future statements they make. Their statements thus far have been tone-deaf, confused, and, frankly, insulting, which only compounds the problem.”

Spellman and her gallery initially responded to the news with an Instagram post, captioned, in part, “Predatory behavior cannot be tolerated in our society, our industry, our spaces.”

One other prominent advertiser is weighing its options. “We are currently reassessing our relationship with Artforum,” the owners of the New York and Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe told artnet News in a joint email.

After artnet News broke the news of the allegations on Wednesday, the respected New York dealer Maxwell Graham of Essex Street Gallery took to Facebook to say that he’d read the entirety of Schmitt’s lawsuit and determined he was “done” with Artforum. (He did not respond to a phone call or Facebook message requesting clarification.)

New York art advisor Todd Levin is calling on galleries and artists to “pull all advertisements and image rights from Artforum for a period of six to 12 months to register their displeasure in a meaningful, concrete way,” he told artnet News. Levin was quick to add that he didn’t wish to see writers punished, however. So he proposed that galleries could step in to support writers by commissioning essays from them.

By Wednesday, Landesman had resigned, but some are still dissatisfied that the other three co-publishers—Tony Korner, Charles Guarino, and Danielle McConnell—remain in place. A number of other art world figures have joined Spellman in criticizing the publishers’ initial response to the lawsuit—including Artforum‘s own staff, which published an open letter of condemnation on the magazine’s website—in which they downplayed the extent of Landesman’s harassment and accused Schmitt of attempting to profit from her relationship with Landesman. Editor-in-chief Michelle Kuo also announced her resignation on Wednesday “in light of the troubling allegations,” she said in a statement.

Marc Glimcher, president of Pace Gallery, plans to continue advertising in the magazine. “The recent allegations made against Knight Landesman are deeply troubling,” Glimcher said in a statement to artnet News. “This kind of behavior and abuse of power in the art world and everywhere else are inexcusable. However, we believe that the importance of Artforum as an institution goes beyond the alleged reprehensible actions of an individual. Pace Gallery will continue to support the writers and editors who make Artforum a vital platform for critical artistic discourse.”

Artforum‘s ads are a key part of its appeal. Making up a significant portion of the bulky publication, they even garnered a cheeky monthly review in the New York Observer for a time. Even those who claim to never read the magazine often profess that they rely on its ads to keep up with gallery exhibitions.

Ad prices go as high as $8,800 per month for the back cover, according to information supplied to artnet News by a dealer. For years, that coveted spot has been occupied by Zurich gallery Bruno Bischofberger with its trademark images of pastoral Swiss vistas and people wearing traditional garb. The gallery did not reply to an email requesting comment.

The next step down is an ad inside the front cover, occupied all of last year by New York gallery Robert Miller, and listed at $8,500 per month. The gallery did not answer a request for comment, and that slot has recently been taken up by Lia Rumma Gallery of Milan and Naples. Full-page four-color ads positioned in the first 20 percent of the magazine, occupied by industry titans including Hauser & Wirth and Marian Goodman, are listed at $8,300 a month. All such special placements are subject to a 10-month contract, according to the rate card. Neither gallery answered a request for comment.

A media kit given to artnet News indicates a circulation of some 50,000 and a readership of nearly 345,000, with about 60 percent of distribution accounted for by subscribers and the remainder from newsstand sales.

Other observers are reviving old complaints about the magazine, including artist and critic Micol Hebron, who has tallied Artforum‘s disproportionate attention to male artists on its covers.

In 2015 I did a comprehensive tally of all Artforum covers. From the inception of the magazine in 1962, through 2014. I…

Posted by Micol Hebron on Thursday, October 26, 2017

With magazines’ advertising income declining on the whole, at least one observer sees potentially wider consequences for the possible flight from Artforum. “Print media is in its death throes anyway,” said New York collector Sue Stoffel. “This might lead to its final breath.”


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