In a new court filing, Artforum has asked for the dismissal of the lawsuit filed against it in October by a former staff member, Amanda Schmitt, who alleges that the magazine’s former publisher, Knight Landesman, sexually harassed her for years, during the time she worked there and in the time afterward.
The motion, filed by Artforum International Magazine, Inc.’s lawyer, Bettina B. Plevan, a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, argues that Schmitt’s suit should be tossed out because the statute of limitations on her claims has lapsed and because “none of [those claims] have alleged an adequate legal or factual basis.”
It also maintains that the suit contains extraneous and inadmissible details about settlement discussions and claims from other women of mistreatment by Landesman. “All of this verbiage has, not surprisingly, generated extensive media coverage characterizing this suit as a sexual harassment complaint,” the suit says. “But the Courts do not exist to serve the public relations objectives of the parties.”
“Amanda Schmitt’s employment at Artforum ended more than five years ago,” the motion, filed Friday in New York Superior Court, adds. “Although she does not assert any claim of sexual harassment, the complaint is laden with irrelevant allegations about the conduct of a former employee of Artforum, defendant Knight Landesman, including alleged conduct towards eight other individuals concerning events that occurred almost five years ago.” (Schmitt is the sole plaintiff in the case.)
Schmitt’s lawsuit contends that Landesman made “unwelcome physical contact and repulsive written and oral demands for intimacy” while she was employed at the magazine, from 2009 to 2012, and in the years following her employment. According to the lawsuit, in 2016, Schmitt met with Charles Guarino and Danielle McConnell, two of three of the magazine’s publishers, and made them aware of Landesman’s remarks, some of which had been sent to Schmitt via email. Guarino and McConnell told Schmitt that they would take action against Landesman for his behavior.
The remarks allegedly continued, however, and in May of this year, while she was at dinner with her partner and a critic, Schmitt says that she ran into Landesman, who, according to her complaint, demanded that she discuss her allegations of harassment in front of her fellow diners. Schmitt’s lawyer, Emily Reisbaum, sent Artforum a letter with information about Schmitt’s account, as well as those of other women. (Further accounts of Landesman’s misbehavior from women who are not discussed in the suit have since been reported by ARTnews and other publications.) Reisbaum demanded that Artforum pay for Schmitt’s therapy and legal bills, but after the magazine asked Schmitt not to speak to the press, she decided to file suit.
The motion argues that, since Landesman’s meeting with Schmitt happened in May and since she had left Artforum more than five years before that, she cannot file a claim of retaliation. New York City anti-discrimination law requires contested events to have taken place within five years after employment. Plevan goes on to note, “The publishers told her they took her complaint seriously and would take appropriate action, which they did.”
Landesman is named as a defendant in the motion alongside Artforum International Magazine, Inc. By the time the publisher left the company on October 25, one day after Artnet News went to press with the first reported accounts of his misbehavior, he had worked at the magazine for over 35 years.