Art exhibition: Criticism to the end: The documenta in Kassel is over

art exhibition
Criticism to the end: the documenta in Kassel is over

The Fridericianum Museum in Kassel.  Photo: Swen Pförtner/dpa

The Fridericianum Museum in Kassel. photo

© Swen Pförtner/dpa

The documenta fifteen in Kassel came to an end after 100 days. The anti-Semitism debate continued to the end. The Auschwitz Committee sees the institution in ruins.

The documenta fifteen in kassel expired after 100 days. The world art exhibition was overshadowed by allegations of anti-Semitism until the last day it was open. The International Auschwitz Committee drew a devastating balance on Sunday: “At the end of documenta fifteen, the defiant insistence of many of those responsible and the retreat behind the walls of their own arrogance became the sad reality of this art festival,” said Executive Vice President Christoph Heubner according to the announcement .

At the same time, the documenta fifteen attracted numerous visitors – even if, according to interim managing director Alexander Farenholtz, the number was around 15 to 20 percent below the record value of the previous event. In 2017, documenta 14 attracted around 891,500 people to Kassel, and 339,000 more people to the second location in Athens. The provisional figures for this year are therefore estimated to be between around 710,000 and 760,000 visitors. Final numbers are expected this Monday.

For the international AuschwitzCommittee complained to Heubner that the criticism of the existence of the state of Israel repeatedly staged at the documenta was stuck “deep in the well-known swamp of anti-Semitic prejudices” and never understood that people were also being hurt, defamed and excluded here who already had this in their family history once had to experience to the bitter end.

Criticism of Indonesian curators

He further said: “That this anti-Semitic connotation in Germany and when documenta fifteen was possible for over 100 days despite growing criticism and opportunities for discussion, the lasting flaw of this project will remain, which marks a turning point in Germany and exposes many political statements as lip service.”

The world’s most important exhibition for contemporary art alongside the Venice Biennale had been shaken by repeated accusations of anti-Semitism. Already at the beginning of the year, the first voices were raised accusing the Indonesian curator collective Ruangrupa and some invited artists of being close to the anti-Israeli boycott movement BDS. Shortly after opening in mid-June, a work with anti-Semitic imagery was discovered and dismantled. Even after that, works with anti-Jewish stereotypes were discovered.

“The Documenta is facing a heap of shards, but a new world can also be put together from shards,” explained the Auschwitz Committee representative heubner. In Germany, politics and society would have to talk about this turning point and the debates that erupted from documenta fifteen and reassess the realities of anti-Semitism and Israel hatred in an international context. The documenta must develop a concept that takes one’s own responsibility seriously and enables new, provocative perspectives on the disturbing reality of our world.


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