documenta boss defies calls to resign over anti-Semitism scandal
Sabine Schormann, the general director of Germany’s documenta contemporary art exhibition, said she intends to hold on to her post despite a chorus calling for her resignation in the wake of anti-Semitism scandal.
“I take my job as it was given to me with a high degree of responsibility and I still believe in this documenta,” Schormann said on Thursday in Kassel, the central German city where the three-month art spectacle takes place every five years.
Ultimately, however, she acknowledge that the decision rests in the hands of authorities overseeing her work.
“In a situation like this, nothing can be ruled out,” Schormann said, adding that her priority remains “getting the ship back on course.”
“And in rough seas, a captain does not jump ship. That’s how I see my role at this point – I’m responsible for organizing the exhibition and I’ve initiated further measures.”
An artwork by the Indonesian collective Taring Padi, which has been denounced as anti-Semitic, was taken down within days of the 15th edition of documenta opening.
But accusations of anti-Semitism had brewing long before that due to the inclusion of artists and groups that support a cultural boycott of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
The German-Israeli Association and other groups have called for Schormann’s resignation, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office said he will not attend this year’s show.
This edition of documenta is being curated by the Indonesian art collective Ruangrupa.
Schormann apologized again on their behalf: “They are immensely sorry.”
Documenta opened on June 18 and is set to run through September 24.
Curating collective apologizes
The collective curating the documenta contemporary art show apologized on Friday after an artwork displayed at the exhibition was denounced as anti-Semitic.
“We deeply regret the extent to which the imagery of our work People’s Justice has offended so many people,” the Indonesian collective Taring Padi wrote in a statement on the documenta website.
“We apologize to all viewers and the team of documenta fifteen, the public in Germany and especially the Jewish community.”
The “People’s Justice” artwork was taken down within days of the 15th edition of documenta opening.
The large-scale banner features a soldier with a pig’s face wearing a scarf with a Star of David and a helmet with the inscription “Mossad,” the name of Israel’s intelligence agency.
Taring Padi said it had learned from its mistake and recognizes now that the imagery takes on a specific meaning in Germany due to the country’s history.
“As a collective of artists who denounce racism in all its forms, we are shocked and saddened by the media furor that has labelled us as anti-semitic,” the statement added.
“We want to reaffirm our respect for all human beings, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender or sexuality.”
Taring Padi had earlier denied accusations of anti-Semitism and expressed disappointment with the documenta crisis management. In comments to Der Spiegel, the collective said the artwork was an old painting that has often been shown at exhibitions and they would not have displayed it in Germany had they known it would cause distress.
But accusations of anti-Semitism linked to the show had already been brewing due to the inclusion of artists and groups that support a cultural boycott of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
German federal and state anti-Semitism commissioners are calling for consequences.
“It is urgently necessary to establish who is responsible for dealing with anti-Semitic imagery and other anti-Semitic content,” the joint federal and state commission to fight anti-Semitism said on Friday.
The mayor of the city of Kassel, which hosts the art show, meanwhile said the decision by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to not visit the exhibition was “inappropriate.”
In a letter written to the chancellor, Christian Geselle said Scholz’s decision “virtually places the documenta under general suspicion,” according to quotes reported by the Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine newspaper.
Further details were not disclosed and the contents of the letter were not made public, a spokesperson told dpa.
Scholz had decided not to visit this year’s edition of documenta despite being a big fan and found the illustration at the centre of the row “abhorrent,” a government spokeswoman said earlier in the week. Via Reuters