The director of one of the most prestigious art shows in the world resigned after this year’s exhibition became enmeshed in a scandal involving antisemitic imagery.
The director of the art exhibition Documenta, which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany, Sabine Schormann, resigned Saturday. The supervisory board of the exhibition released a statement expressing “its deep consternation that clearly antisemitic motifs were to be seen on the opening weekend of Documenta fifteen.”
An interim director will be appointed, the board said.
One of the pieces on display at the show was an 8- by 12-foot banner called “People’s Justice,” created in 2002 by Indonesian activist art collective Taring Padi. It features “caricatures of Jewish military figures, including one that wears the SS insignia on a black hat and is depicted with fangs and the sidecurls worn by Jewish Orthodox men. Another figure, a soldier resembling a pig, has ‘Mossad’ scrawled on its helmet,” according to CNN.
The artists stated that the mural was created in response to “violence, exploitation and censorship” of life under the rule of former Indonesian president and army officer Suharto, and was meant to “expose the complex power relationships that are at play behind these injustices.” The group apologized to the Jewish community, the German public and the attendees to Documenta, saying that [T]he imagery that we use is never intended as hatred directed at a particular ethnic or religious group, but as a critique of militarism and state violence. We depicted the involvement of the government of the state of Israel in the wrong way — and we apologize. Antisemitism does not have a place in our hearts and minds.”
Remko Leemhuis, the director of the American Jewish Committee Berlin Lawrence, said in an email that including “People’s Justice” showed a “massive problem” with antisemitism in German art and culture, stating that “[I]t is outrageous that the supervisory board in its statement is not expressing one word of regret or issuing an apology to the Central Council of Jews in Germany or the Jewish community in Germany as a whole about the damage this has caused.”
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