Germany’s documenta rebuffs new accusations of anti-Semitic depiction

1 min read
Hallenbad-Ost, where the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi is exhibiting. Credit line: UWE ZUCCHI / AFP / Profimedia

A piece of work at Germany’s prestigious documenta art show is to be accompanied with an explanation to prevent misunderstanding, organizers said, after fresh accusations of anti-Semitic imagery were levelled.

“With this intervention, we are preventing a possible misinterpretation,” documenta management said in a statement.

Organizers would not engage with attempts to polemicize artworks with accusations of anti-Semitism made without proper research, the statement released late Wednesday continued.

The work in question is entitled “All Mining is Dangerous.” It features four people carrying bags of money. One person is depicted with a long nose, bulging lips and wearing a headcovering.

The German-Israeli Society’s Youth Forum accused the organizers of of covering over a part of a work that it criticized as anti-Semitic.

d15 Taring Padi Hallenbad Ost 2022 08 13 © Nicolas Wefers 005
documenta fifteen: Installation view Taring Padi, Hallenbad Ost, Kassel, August 13, 2022, photo: Nicolas Wefers

The cap, which the group described as a Jewish kippah, was covered over with a black piece of tape. The group suggested that documenta was trying to conceal the anti-Semitic nature of work.

But the Indonesian curatorial collective Ruangrupa, which is responsible for the content of this edition of documenta, said the picture represents the Muslim religious leadership in Indonesia. The headgear is not a kippah, but a classic and widespread “kopiah” or “peci” in Indonesia, they said.

It is worn by a recurring character in a form of the popular Indonesian puppet show – the wayang, according to Ruangrupa.

They defended the decision to alter it “as an aesthetic choice to respond to the immediate context in which the work was shown with appreciation, sensitivity and care,” and not as a cover-up.

The kopiah, which has become part of the national and official dress in Indonesia, reaches up to the ears, unlike the kippah.

documenta fifteen: Taring Padi, All Mining Is Dangerous, installation view of documenta fifteen Hallenbad Ost, Kassel, August 13, 2022, photo: Nicolas Wefers

The work is by Indonesian art group Taring Padi, whose 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 recurring global art exhibition in the German city Kassel documenta fifteen has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitic art. Former director Sabine Schormann resigned last month. © dpa

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