the women of the art world issued a powerful petition against sexual harassment

“Abuse of power comes as no surprise.”

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Oct 30 2017, 2:37pm

Image Jenny Holzer, Truisms, 1982, installation view, Times Square, New York. Photo Public Art Fund.

This article was originally published by i-D UK.

Another day, another avalanche of women speaking out against the normalization of systematic sexism and sexual harassment within a creative industry, which has for so long been the status quo.

This time it's myriads of women from the art world issuing a powerful open letter about how they are Not Surprised: "We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favors. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticize, minimize, and hide sexually abusive behavior 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."

"We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favors. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticize, minimize, and hide sexually abusive behavior by artists they represent. We are not surprised when a meeting with a collector or a potential patron becomes a sexual proposition."

Referencing the same work from cult artist Jenny Holzer that appears on the website's homepage, the image at the crux of this letter's thesis, the essay continues: "Abuse of power comes as no surprise."

The open letter comes after Artforum publisher Knight Landesman resigned on the back of sexual harassment claims made against him, and addresses a number of the unsettlingly common themes underpinning so many of the widespread allegations rippling across various creative industries.

It talks of the importance of addressing intersectionality when discussing these issues, and that, "harder work to advance equity is often expected of and performed by women of color, trans, and gender nonconforming people." The letter also notes the widespread hypocrisy at the heart of these industries: "Many institutions and individuals with power in the art world espouse the rhetoric of feminism and equity in theory, often financially benefitting from these flimsy claims of progressive politics, while preserving oppressive and harmful sexist norms in practice."

"The resignation of one publisher from one high-profile magazine does not solve the larger, more insidious problem: an art world that upholds inherited power structures at the cost of ethical behavior."

Crucially, it argues that we need to dig deeper than just demonizing one particularly problematic individual: "The resignation of one publisher from one high-profile magazine does not solve the larger, more insidious problem: an art world that upholds inherited power structures at the cost of ethical behavior."

The letter concludes with the encouraging consensus borne from the sheer number of stories and allegations; the idea that "We are too many, now, to be silenced or ignored. With all we have experienced and witnessed, this letter should come as no surprise."

Read the whole statement here, find their useful definition of sexual harassment here, and, for the art workers of the world, sign the petition here.

#NotSurprised.