August 16, 2022

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Documenta president resigns amid anti-Semitism scandal

Documenta president resigns amid anti-Semitism scandal

A month into the art world’s crisis, Sabine Schuermann, general director of the popular contemporary art gallery Documenta, resigned on Saturday from her position just 28 days after the 100-day fair kicked off.

The crisis began after an artwork containing antisemitic images was placed, covered, and then covered Removed from galleryIt is held every five years in Kassel, Germany. The suspension of the artwork, a huge piece that contained a Jewish caricature, led to a loss of confidence in the event, Documenta’s board of directors said in a statement Announcing the departure of Mrs. Schurmann.

The statement added that the Board of Directors “considers it necessary that everything be done to restore that confidence.” The statement said the council will bring together a group of experts in art, anti-Semitism and post-colonialism to determine what went wrong and to determine if there are any other anti-Semitic images in the exhibition.

Documenta is widely regarded as one of the most important events in the art world, rivaled only by the Venice Biennale.

This year’s edition of Documenta, 15, is Sponsored by Ruangrupa, an Indonesian art group, with over 1,000 artists, mostly from the global south, hosts exhibitions and events. One group created a nightclub convenient for visitors; Another built a sauna. Many gallery spaces are intended to be places where visitors can participate in events and discuss social and political issues, as well as glimpse art.

Siddhartha Mitter, Documenta review for the New York Timeshe said, that “Everywhere in this presentation are possibilities: ways of examining the past, or exchange in the present, that provide a ground for hope; strategies outside the constraints of state and capitalist systems; and fodder for civic imagination.”

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Despite this acclaim, Documenta got into controversy even before it opened. In January, a protest group called the Alliance Against Anti-Semitism in Kassel accused Ruangrupa and other artists of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. In 2019, the German parliament Declare the movement anti-Semiticsaying it questioned Israel’s right to exist.

The accusations first appeared on a blog, but were picked up by German newspapers and politicians. In June, outrage intensified when Tring Paddy, another Indonesian art group, installed an artwork called “People’s Justice” in one of Kassel’s main squares.

Produced in 2002, the nearly 60-foot-tall “People’s Justice” is a political banner with cartoon-like images of activists struggling under Indonesia’s military rule. Among the many characters, there is one that looks like a Jewish caricature with side threads and fangs, wearing a hat emblazoned with the Nazi emblem “SS”.

The banner also features a military figure, with a pig’s head, wearing a Star of David neckerchief and with the word “Mossad,” the name of Israel’s security service, written on her helmet. (This number appears alongside soldiers identified as members of other intelligence forces, including the KGB)

Claudia Roth, German Minister of Culture, said on a permit At the time “these are in my opinion anti-Semitic images,” and the banner was criticized by prominent Jewish groups and Israel’s embassy in Germany. The artwork was first covered up and then removed, Taring Padi and ruangrupa have apologized, but that didn’t end the controversy.

Days later, Ms Roth said the festival needed to explain how the “clearly anti-Semitic image” had been suspended in the first place, adding that Documenta needed “fundamental structural reform” if it was to receive future funding from the German government.

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On the same day, Ms. Schurmann tried to distance herself from the controversy by saying in a new version It is “not responsible” for the artistic content of Documenta. The statement added that the exhibition will be “examined for more important works.” This mission will be led by Ruangrupa with the support of Myron Mendel, director of the Anne Frank Education Center in Frankfurt, he said.

These moves did not put an end to the crisis, especially after Mr. Mendel resigned from his position. Mr. Mendel said in a phone interview last week, before Ms Schuermann’s resignation, that Documenta’s management team had prevented him from starting his mission.

“I didn’t even get half a work of art to see,” he said. He added that he had to contact the artists himself to talk about their work, as Documenta initially refused to contact them.

At least one artist from Documenta publicly admitted to losing faith in the event. on July 8 Hito SterlOne of the gallery’s most prominent artists withdrew her work, saying in an email to Documenta that she had “no confidence” in the organization’s ability to handle the controversy. Ms Steyerl said in a telephone interview before Ms Schormann’s resignation that anger kept people from paying attention to art.

“Art is not secondary – no one talks about it now,” said Mrs. Stirl.

She added: “A lot of people have worked on this a lot, and by not addressing accusations of anti-Semitism – both justified and unjustified – in a decisive and transparent way, Documenta has allowed this debate to overshadow everything else.”

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Documenta said in its statement on Saturday that it would appoint an interim general manager to replace Ms. Schurmann, but did not specify a timetable.