The president of the German-Israeli Society (DIG), Volker Beck, slammed a major art show for anti-Semitic exhibits on Tuesday, in a spat that has been raging for months despite organizers’ attempts to contextualize some of the works on display.
“Documenta fifteen is really an epochal change in the history of German post-war anti-Semitism,” said Beck after visiting the exhibition that is one of the art world’s most important events.
In the past, people responded to accusations of anti-Semitism by distancing themselves and clamping down on anti-Semitism in society, Beck said. “But here that explicitly does not take place.”
Accusations of anti-Semitism have been made since the show opened in June, with a major artwork pulled from display for containing anti-Semitic caricatures. The show also contained drawings from the 1980s of Israeli soldiers, including one with a hooked nose.
However, organizers of the show have stated that some of the depictions that were criticized were not aimed at Jews or Jewish people as individuals or as a community, but showed criticism of the Israeli army. A text has been placed by the images to clarify this, the organizers said.
Before visiting, Beck criticized the show and its handling of criticism so far. “After this documenta, one must say: anti-Semitism has a place in Kassel, anti-Semitism has a place at this documenta,” he said on Tuesday, renewing his call for the exhibition to be staged somewhere else, as a new beginning.
During his visit, Beck emphasised that there were interesting items on display but also “unresolved problematic issues.”
Controversial items include archive material and films by the Japanese Red Army Faction (RAF), which he charged trivialize and glorify anti-Semitic terror.
Beck said documenta had failed as it had “not reacted appropriately to the problems,” and demanded the removal of the city’s mayor and state art minister from the board.
A text now accompanies depictions criticised as anti-Semitic, rejecting the accusations and stating that the images have been misunderstood.
“We regret that these images have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by the media and visitors who believe that they represent anti-Semitism,” the collective that curated this year’s exhibition wrote, referring to drawings in a brochure that included soldiers with a Star of David on their helmets as robots with bared teeth.
Beck dismissed the statement as completely unsuccessful. ©dpa