Sunday was the last day of the documenta in Kassel. The debate about the world art show, which was shaken by repeated allegations of anti-Semitism, lasted until the end.
The anti-Semitism debate accompanied the documenta fifteen up to its last day. Shortly before the end of the 100-day world art show in Kassel on Sunday evening, the International Auschwitz Committee drew a devastating balance. “At the end of the documenta fifteen, the defiant insistence of many of those responsible and the withdrawal behind the walls of their own arrogance became the sad reality of this art festival,” said Executive Vice President Christoph Heubner, according to the announcement.
Heubner complained that the criticism of the existence of the State of Israel, which was staged again and again, was “deep in the well-known swamp of anti-Semitic prejudices” and never understood that people were also being hurt, defamed and excluded here who had done this to the bitter end in their family history should have experienced.
He went on to say: “The fact that this anti-Semitic connotation was possible in Germany and at documenta fifteen for more than 100 days, despite growing criticism and opportunities for discussion, will remain the lasting flaw of this project, which marks a turning point in Germany and exposes many political statements as lip service. “
The most important exhibition for contemporary art next to the Venice Biennale had been shaken by repeated accusations of anti-Semitism. Already at the beginning of the year, the first voices were raised accusing the Indonesian curator collective Ruangrupa and some invited artists of being close to the anti-Israel boycott movement BDS. Shortly after opening in mid-June, a work with anti-Semitic imagery was discovered and dismantled. Even after that, works with anti-Jewish stereotypes were discovered.
“The Documenta is in ruins, but a new world can also be put together from broken pieces,” explained Auschwitz Committee representative Heubner. In Germany, politics and society would have to talk about this turning point and the debates that erupted from the documenta fifteen and reassess the realities of anti-Semitism and Israel hatred in the international context. The Documenta must develop a concept that takes its own responsibility seriously and enables new, provocative perspectives on the disturbing reality of our world.
Regardless of the debate, the documenta fifteen attracted a large number of visitors – even if, according to interim managing director Alexander Farenholtz, the number was around 15 to 20 percent below the record value of the previous event. In 2017, documenta 14 drew around 891,500 people to Kassel, and 339,000 more people to the second location in Athens. The provisional figures for this year are therefore estimated to be between around 710,000 and 760,000 visitors. Final figures are expected on Monday.