German art show documenta unwilling to withdraw controversial works

1 min read
Credit line: Andreas Arnold / DPA / Profimedia

The artistic direction of the scandal-plagued documenta art show is sticking with a series of works, despite renewed criticism that the works are anti-Semitic.

An expert panel appointed by the documenta shareholders to deal with the accusations of anti-Semitism against the international art show demanded on Monday that pro-Palestinian propaganda films no longer be shown.

According to the Berlin art magazine Monopol, a documenta statement read: “The management of documenta and Ruangrupa have taken note of the expert panel’s assessment. Ruangrupa, which as the artistic director of documenta fifteen has the sole right to decide, does not wish to follow the recommendation to temporarily remove the work ‘Tokyo Reels’ by Subversive Film from the exhibition.”

The management of the exhibition in the German city of Kassel does not want to act either.

The panel had said earlier that documenta fifteen must stop screening the work – featuring film material from the 1960s to the 1980s – has been deemed “highly problematic.”

The experts said that the artists’ comments include strong anti-Israeli feeling and veer into the “glorification of terrorism,” while the material as a whole is presented as a supposedly objective report.

If they are to be shown again, the films would need to be placed in context and the provenance of the original material as propaganda would need to be explained, the expert panel added.

This year’s edition of documenta, an expansive international art exhibition staged in Kassel only once every five years, has been dogged by allegations of showcasing anti-Semitic art. Since the exhibition opened in June, several anti-Semitic works have caused controversy.

In a second statement issued on Monday, part of the advisory board accused the Indonesian art collective Ruangrupa – which curated documenta fifteen – of “curatorial imbalance.”

Almost all works that deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict expressed “one-sidedly critical to decidedly anti-Israel attitudes,” according to the statement, which was signed by five of the seven members of the expert advisory panel.

The former head of documenta, Sabine Schormann, resigned in mid-July due to the allegations of anti-Semitism. © dpa

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