documenta 15. Artwork’s alteration renews anti-Semitism row

1 min read
documenta fifteen: Installation view Taring Padi, Hallenbad Ost, Kassel, August 13, 2022, photo: Nicolas Wefers

A fresh row has ignited at documenta, a recurring global art exhibition in Germany whose latest edition has been plagued by allegations of anti-Semitism.

The German-Israeli Society’s Youth Forum prompted debate after it accused the organizers of the exhibition in the central city Kassel of covering over a part of a work criticized as anti-Semitic.

“It is inconceivable that those responsible at documenta think that by taping over a kippah the problem is solved,” said its national chairman Constantin Ganß.

The work is by the Indonesian art collective Taring Padi. Its contentious mural “People’s Justice” was first covered up and then taken down shortly after the opening of the documenta in mid-June because of anti-Semitic depictions.

The show also contained drawings from the 1980s of Israeli soldiers, including one with a hooked nose.

Now another work by Taring Padi, called “All Mining is Dangerous,” is generating controversy. It features four people carrying bags of money. One person is depicted with a long nose, bulging lips and wearing a kippah. The cap was apparently covered over with a black piece of tape, according to the group’s accusation.

“The depiction is openly anti-Semitic – there is nothing more to be said about that,” a statement by the Youth Forum read. They called for Taring Padi to be excluded from the sprawling show, which is held every five years and is one the biggest events on the art world’s calendar.

In response to a request from dpa, documenta said Tuesday that the artistic organizers would soon explain the visual material under discussion, with Taring Padi’s participation.

The Indonesian collective Ruangrupa – which is curating this documenta – believes there is no anti-Semitic imagery to be found in the work.

The 15th edition of documenta has generated so much controversy that its director general, Sabine Schormann resigned last month amid calls by German politicians for major reforms.

The show is set to run through mid-September. © dpa

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