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Armory Show director pushed out after sexual harassment allegations

Washington Post

Benjamin Genocchio, executive director of New York's prestigious Armory Show and half of an art world power couple with Washington, D.C., museum director Melissa Chiu, was pushed out Wednesday only hours after a New York Times report detailing sexual harassment allegations against him.

Genocchio is the latest high-profile figure to be accused of sexual harassment in the wake of accusations made against film producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and Michael Oreskes, who has since resigned as NPR's head of news.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Armory Show said that allegations against Genocchio made earlier this year were investigated and that the organization "concluded they did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. We have only recently learned of the allegations related to Mr. Genocchio's previous employment."

Deputy Director Nicole Berry will serve as executive director.

The statement did not say whether Genocchio remained an Armory staffer, was suspended or had been fired, and a representative there said the Armory would have no additional information.

The Times detailed complaints about Genocchio dating to when he worked as editorial director at Louise Blouin Media from 2011 to 2014 and as editor of Artnet news, a position he left to take over the Armory Show last year. At one point, a group of 20 Artnet employees gathered to openly discuss their complaints.

Colleen Calvo, a marketing coordinator then, told the Times that during a 2014 holiday party, Genocchio had touched her pants and said, "Is this the only time I get to touch your ass without getting yelled at?"

Genocchio, 48, did not respond to emails requesting comment. In a statement to the Times, he said he "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."

A native of Australia, Genocchio got his PhD in art history from the University of Sydney. He moved to New York in 2001.

Report of the allegations comes as the Hirshhorn Museum, under Chiu's direction, is on the upswing with record crowds and fundraising thanks to such exhibits as February's Yayoi Kusama show and the just-opened "Mark Bradford: Pickett's Charge," a work that Chiu and the museum commissioned. The Hirshhorn is the Smithsonian's modern and contemporary art museum.

A Hirshhorn spokeswoman said that Chiu declined to comment on the allegations. Bradford, reached through a representative, also had no comment.

In 2015, Genocchio was caught editing his wife's Wikipedia entry to delete references to criticism of her hiring of Gianni Jetzer, a New York-based curator, and also removing passages that described the backlash she faced for a decision to host the museum's 40th-anniversary gala in New York. He also added praise for Chiu's fundraising prowess. The online encyclopedia's content is user-generated, and contributors are told to avoid conflicts of interest.

The Times report on Genocchio did not surprise Amanda Coulson, who is the artistic director of the Armory-affiliated Volta art. She declined to comment on Genocchio - she didn't work with him and never witnessed anything in the report. But a Volta worker who did work at the Armory came to her to complain about Genocchio, and Coulson allowed her to work from home.

"As a woman who has worked in the art world since I was 25 years old," said Coulson, who is 51, "I could count many, many times when I got pressured, when I was made to feel uncomfortable, when I got demeaned," she said. "I'm just glad now we're at a period where it seems that younger women are given the possibility to speak the truth about how those things make them feel."

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