Art Market

Art activist and writer Tanya Selvaratnam is one of four women accusing former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physical abuse.

Isaac Kaplan
May 8, 2018 4:28PM, via the New Yorker

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned late Monday night, hours after the publication of a story by The New Yorker in which four women alleged that they suffered physical abuse from the official who has himself been a champion of progressive issues. Noted art activist, actor, and writer Tanya Selvaratnam was among the women, and one of two who went on record with the publication. Schneiderman resigned but has firmly denied the charges from all four women, telling the magazine, “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

Selvaratnam, who said she was motivated to come forward out of a concern that other women might be subject to the same abuse, is a prominent activist figure in the art world. She is a founding member of The Federation, a collective created in conjunction with artist Laurie Anderson and producer Laura Michalchyshyn as a “direct response to the proposed immigration bans and in opposition to the slashing of arts funding,” co-wrote Selvaratnam and Alternet editor Kali Holloway in a January op-ed published on Artsy. That same month, on January 20th, the group held a series of events and workshops as part of its first ever Art Action Day. Selvaratnam has a significant list of collaborators, including the artists Marina Abramović, Solange Knowles, and Lorna Simpson. She also performed during “The Shape of Things,” Carrie Mae Weems’s year-long residency at the Park Avenue Armory in 2017.

Selvaratnam met Schneiderman in 2016, and the pair were in a relationship for over a year. But during that time, Selvaratnam said Schneiderman subjected her to escalating levels of physical and verbal abuse. Selvaratnam, who is Sri-lankan born, said New York’s top prosecutor called her a “brown slave” and demanded a threesome, slapping her until she agreed (though she said she never intended to follow through). As reporters Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow wrote in The New Yorker:

The abuse escalated. Schneiderman not only slapped her across the face, often four or five times, back and forth, with his open hand; he also spat at her and choked her. “He was cutting off my ability to breathe,” she says. Eventually, she says, “we could rarely have sex without him beating me.” In her view, Schneiderman “is a misogynist and a sexual sadist.”
Isaac Kaplan
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019