Benjamin Genocchio was replaced Wednesday as the executive director of The Armory Show after a report
in the New York Times
in which multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, including unsolicited physical contact.
He will be replaced by Nicole Berry, who has been the New York art fair’s deputy director since she joined last year from EXPO Chicago. A spokesperson for The Armory Show did not say whether Genocchio’s departure was permanent. An email sent to Genocchio’s Armory Show account generated an out-of-office reply noting he is “currently out of the office” and to direct queries to Berry “in my absence.”
“The Armory Show seeks to maintain a respectful workplace and prohibits harassment or discrimination of any kind,” said The Armory Show’s spokesperson Thursday in an emailed statement. “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. At this time, Deputy Director Nicole Berry has assumed the role of Executive Director of The Armory Show. Nicole and the entire Armory team are committed to producing a very successful fair in March 2018.”
The Times story detailed a range of allegations ranging from inappropriate comments to running “his hand up [a colleague’s] sequin pants” and asking her, “Is this the only time I get to touch your ass without getting yelled at?’” according to Artnet’s then-marketing coordinator, Colleen Calvo, who said the incident happened as she was checking guests into the company’s holiday party in 2014. Genocchio served as editor-in-chief of the editorial wing of the online art website until joining The Armory Show in 2016.
The Times spoke to eight women in total who said Genocchio had made inappropriate comments when they worked with him at The Armory Show, Artnet, or Louise Blouin Media, and a further 11 people who had either observed or were aware of these comments, which were often made in the workplace. The Times did not interview Genocchio, but he issued this statement to reporter Robin Pogrebin:
“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.”
Genocchio, an Australian with a doctorate in art history, had worked as an art critic for The Australian newspaper, and later covered art for the New York Times. He was editorial director of Louise Blouin Media from 2010 to 2014, which publishes Modern Painters, Artinfo.com, and Art+Auction, and then joined Artnet as editor-in-chief. He became director of The Armory Show in January 2016. Several Artsy Editorial staff members worked for Genocchio at Blouin and at artnet News, and Artsy has a standing business relationship with The Armory Show.
In his tenure at The Armory Show, Genocchio was credited with literally ripping up the carpet at The Armory Show, which is held at Piers 92 and 94 on the West Side Highway, removing the carpeting to play up its industrial feel, and making it edgier by expanding its young gallery sector and bringing in ambitious site-specific curated works.
His wife, Melissa Chiu, is the director of Washington, D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Genocchio divides his time between New York and the Washington area.
In a statement emailed by a press representative, Artnet CEO Jacob Pabst said that Artnet “has been committed to creating and maintaining a work environment that is free of harassment of any kind. We have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that everyone with whom we conduct business finds our work environment to be a professional and respectful one.” The statement also said a majority of Artnet’s full-time employees are female, as well as a majority on its senior leadership.
“artnet respects the privacy of its employees—past and present—and therefore, we will not comment on specific personnel matters, even when we believe that characterizations by others of such matters are inaccurate,” Pabst said.