an anti-Semitic work is controversial at the documenta contemporary art fair

an anti-Semitic work is controversial at the documenta contemporary art fair

Vandalism and accusations of anti-Semitism, the cultural event was already under fire from critics before this new controversy.

The Israeli embassy and representatives of the Jews of Germany on Monday ordered the organizers of the contemporary art fair documenta, which opened recently in Kassel, in central Germany, to withdraw a qualified work of anti-Semite.

This is a new blow for this unmissable meeting of contemporary creation, which takes place every five years, and has faced accusations of anti-Semitism in recent months.

In the edition that opened this Saturday, a work shows a soldier with a pig’s head, a Star of David and the inscription “Mossad” on his helmet. There is also a man with long teeth, curly hair, a hat with the inscription of the Nazi SS and a cigar in the corner of the mouth, reminiscent of anti-Semitic caricatures of Orthodox Jews.

Works that “reminiscent of Goebbels’ propaganda”

The work “clearly presents anti-Semitic motifs”, judged on Twitter the director of the Anne Frank Center and professor at the University of Frankfurt, Meron Mendel.

“The elements present in certain works recall the propaganda of Goebbels” broadcast “at the darkest moment in German history” and “must be immediately removed from the exhibition”, asked in a press release the Israeli embassy in Berlin , saying she was “disgusted”.

“Artistic freedom ends where misanthropy begins,” said Josef Schuster, president of the Council of Jews in Germany. “Documenta officials must draw the consequences.” The Federal Minister of Culture, Claudia Roth, also judged that the fight against anti-Semitism and racism “are also the limits of artistic freedom”.

The art fair already under fire from critics

The withdrawal requests come as the art fair has already opened into controversy: the Palestinian collective The Question of Funding, very critical of the Israeli occupation, has been accused of being linked to the Boycott, Divestment, sanctions (BDS). He advocates a boycott of Israel because of its occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

BDS was labeled as “anti-Semitic” by the German parliament in 2019 and banned from receiving public money. However, around half of Documenta’s budget – 42 million euros – comes from the federal state.

Last month, vandals broke into the space where works by Palestinian artists are exhibited, covering the walls with threatening graffiti.

La Documenta is a major meeting place for contemporary art, along with the Venice Biennale. For one hundred days, the works of more than 1,500 artists should attract at least one million visitors.

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