Nov 09 2017

Armory Replaces Disgraced Benjamin Genocchio

by Ysabelle Cheung

Details of verbal and sexual harassment by Benjamin Genocchio, the ousted executive director of New York’s Armory Show, have come to light. Photo by Teddy Wolff. Courtesy The Armory Show, New York.

First Knight Landesman, now Benjamin Genocchio. This week, another high-profile male figure of the art world has been called out for his lewd sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Genocchio served as executive director of the New York-based fair Armory Show for a year and ten months until Wednesday, November 8, when the organizers of the fair ousted him after a heavily circulated New York Times article revealed Genocchio’s history of harassment. According to an updated version of the report, at least 13 women who have worked with Genocchio at various stages of his career have come forward with details of verbal and physical sexual harassment.

Like Landesman, and film producer Harvey Weinstein, Genocchio is a powerful influencer in the circles of art and culture, particularly in the United States, where he has resided since 2001 with his wife, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Park director Melissa Chiu, and in Australia, where he was born and began his career as an art critic. Ironically, in 2002, it was the Times that published Genocchio’s first art reviews written on American shores. He then assumed a position as editorial director at Louise Blouin Media in 2010 (where he was editor-in-chief of the company’s subsidiaries Art+Auction magazine, Modern Painters and Artinfo.com), and then as editor-in-chief of Artnet News from January 2014 to December 2015. Employees in both places have recently leveled charges against his inappropriate behaviour in and out of the office. The claims range from incidents of non-consensual touching and verbal harassment, to explicit sexism, where Genocchio has been quoted as refusing to go to a public event with an employee who was in her fifties, stating instead that he needed to go with “arm candy.”

Whispered allegations have trailed Genocchio in the past. In the spring of 2017, Armory Show’s managing director Deborah Harris filed a complaint against her superior, notifying human resources at Vornado Realty Trust, which owns the Armory Show, that Genocchio had essentially bullied her after she attempted to correct his untoward remarks about their colleagues’ figures and outfits. (Full disclosure: Deborah Harris was once under the employment of ArtAsiaPacific magazine, and Ben Genocchio has contributed to the magazine as a writer.)

Genocchio has remained silent on the subject except for a short statement published on Tuesday, November 7: “Launching start-up news websites definitely led to conflicts with a few employees, but I never intentionally acted in an inappropriate manner nor spoke to or touched a colleague in a sexually inappropriate way. To the extent my behavior was perceived as disrespectful, I deeply and sincerely apologize and will ensure it does not happen again.”

The Armory Show also released a statement on Wednesday. “After allegations were made against Mr. Genocchio in the spring of 2017, we immediately followed our procedures and initiated an investigation using outside counsel. We concluded that Mr. Genocchio’s conduct did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. We have only recently learned of the allegations related to Mr. Genocchio’s previous employment,” it reads. However, it remains unclear whether Genocchio had been suspended or fired. His replacement is deputy director Nicole Berry.

Ysabelle Cheung is the managing editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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