Shortly after the opening, the Documenta Fifteen actually an anti-Semitism scandal. The director of the Anne Frank educational institution, Meron Mendel, asked those responsible for the world art exhibition in Kassel on Monday to remove a contribution by the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi because of anti-Semitic motifs. The Israeli embassy in Berlin was also outraged. There were even calls for his resignation. The banner was finally covered on Monday evening after the massive criticism.
Due to a depiction of figures that enables anti-Semitic readings, the collective, together with the management and the artistic direction, “decided to cover up the work in question and to install an explanation,” the documenta announced on Monday evening. Among other things, a soldier with a pig’s face can be seen on the large-scale banner on Friedrichsplatz. He wears a scarf with a Star of David and a helmet with the inscription “Mossad” – the name of the Israeli foreign intelligence service. “This is a clear crossing of borders,” said Mendel of the German Press Agency. “These pictures leave absolutely no room for interpretation. It’s clear anti-Semitic agitation.” The work must be covered immediately or, at best, removed.
Taring Padi is committed to supporting and respecting diversity, the artist collective said in the documenta announcement. “Our works do not contain content that aims to portray any population in a negative way.” The fifteenth edition of the documenta is curated by the Indonesian artist collective Ruangrupa. Months ago, an alliance in Kassel accused him of also involving organizations that supported the cultural boycott of Israel or were anti-Semitic. Ruangrupa and the Documenta firmly denied the allegations.
So far, Mendel had backed the Documenta in the debate. He said he saw no anti-Semitism there, but criticized the lack of positions by Jewish artists from Israel. Mendel emphasized on Monday that not the entire exhibition should be described as anti-Semitic. “You have to differentiate there. Something must have gone wrong. But something like that shouldn’t happen.”
Also Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth found clear words: “From my point of view, this is anti-Semitic imagery”, said the Green politician. “I’ll say it again: Human dignity, protection against anti-Semitism as well as against racism and every form of misanthropy are the foundations of our coexistence, and this is where artistic freedom finds its limits.” The Documenta must immediately make this clear to the curators and artists and draw “the necessary conclusions”.
Hesse’s Minister of Art Angela Dorn (Greens) said: “My personal impression is that there is anti-Semitic imagery here.” She therefore immediately contacted the general director of the Documenta, Sabine Schormann, with the aim of clarifying the matter as quickly as possible.
Also the Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Documenta, Kassel’s Lord Mayor Christian Geselle, says: “The illustration on the artwork, which to my current knowledge was only installed on Friedrichsplatz on Saturday, is an anti-Semitic violation that cannot be dismissed out of hand.” He asked the management of the show for clarification and to initiate necessary measures. However, Geselle warned against placing the Documenta Fifteen under general suspicion. “In the Preview Days, which took place from Wednesday to Friday for trade visitors and the media, no anti-Semitic works of art could be identified beforehand.”
He also reacted indignantly President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster. The Council had been criticized from many quarters for its concerns about this year’s Documenta. He was even indirectly accused of racism. “However, it doesn’t matter where artists who spread anti-Semitism come from,” emphasized Schuster. Artistic freedom ends where misanthropy begins. “This red line was crossed at the Documenta.” Those responsible must now meet their social responsibility and draw conclusions, he demanded.
She found clear words Israeli embassy in Berlin: “The elements shown in some exhibits are reminiscent of the propaganda of Goebbels and his henchmen in dark times of German history.” Not only have all the red lines been crossed, they have been shattered. “These items should be removed from the exhibition immediately.”
That American Jewish Committee Berlin demanded the dismissal of the Documenta managing director. Schormann should be relieved of his duties immediately, “the openly displayed anti-Semitism should be stopped immediately and the relevant works removed,” said director Remko Leemhuis. Of the Managing Director of the German Cultural Council, Olaf Zimmermann, demanded that the shareholders of the art show – the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse – must now ensure clarity, “since the management of the Documenta Fifteen is obviously not willing or able to do so”. the AfD in the state parliament of Hesse even demanded that the Documenta Fifteen be ended.
the President of the Jewish community in Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, expressed his dismay at the monumental painting. “As a member of the Jewish community, but also as a citizen of this country, I am appalled by the sheer hatred of Jews that is shown in Taring Padi’s image.” Against the background of the debate about the 15th edition of the Documenta Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the opening of the show on Saturday already emphasized the limits of artistic freedom. “Art can be offensive, it should trigger debates.” Criticism of Israeli policy is allowed. “But where criticism of Israel turns into questioning of its existence, the limit has been crossed,” he said.
The Documenta, which has been in Kassel since 1955, is considered the world’s most important exhibition of contemporary art alongside the Venice Biennale. It is held every five years. The show lasts until September 25th.