Jenny Holzer, Untitled, 1982. Computer Animation/Spectacolor Light Board. Part of  Messages to the Public exhibition. Photo by: John Marchael. Artwork courtesy of: Jane Dickson, Project Initiator and Animator. Photo: Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY 

An Open Letter Slams Sexism in the Art World

An online missive with a vast and still-growing list of signatories highlights an enduring problem.

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Oct 30 2017, 6:03pm

Jenny Holzer, Untitled, 1982. Computer Animation/Spectacolor Light Board. Part of  Messages to the Public exhibition. Photo by: John Marchael. Artwork courtesy of: Jane Dickson, Project Initiator and Animator. Photo: Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY 

"Your actions will no longer be a secret, whispered amongst us for fear of ostracization, professional shunning, and recrimination. Where we see the abuse of power, we resolve to speak out." In the still-broadening wake of Artforum magazine co-publisher Knight Landesdman's shock resignation last Wednesday—a move made after a lawsuit was filed accusing him of sexually harassing at least nine women—numerous creative professionals including Laurie Anderson, Barbara Gladstone, Cindy Sherman, and Amy Sillman this morning put their names to a coruscating open letter decrying similar behavior throughout the field, and demanding immediate change.

Signed by a still-growing list of more than 1,800 artists, curators, and critics, the letter appears on a website titled "Not Surprised," after Jenny Holzer's artwork Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise. Originating in a WhatsApp exchange on October 24, the initial campaign grew rapidly as more and more individuals came forward to declare their opposition to rampant sexism in the art world across the globe. The resultant letter, which was updated to memorialize pioneering feminist art historian Linda Nochlin, who died on January 29, also heralds the launch of a campaign, Not Surprised, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.