Documenta director resigns after anti-Semitic riots

Sabine Schuermann has resigned as general director of the five-yearly Documenta Arts Festival in Kassel, Germany. Schuurmann has been heavily criticized for allowing curators from Indonesia to exhibit anti-Semitic artwork.

On Saturday afternoon, the Documenta 15 manager’s contract was terminated early. This was done in consultation with the Board of Directors. Sabine Schuermann, 60, has been asked to resign for weeks. It has been criticized for giving curators from Indonesia the freedom to select works for the prestigious arts festival in Kassel, Germany. They had the artwork “People’s Justice” painted by the collective Taryn Bade, a huge painting with anti-Semitic images here and there. The curtain was removed after a few days, but the storm around Documenta 15 did not subside. (DS June 29)

The Minister of Culture, Claudia Roth (the Greens), reported in the media that she had warned the director about Ruangrupa, the documenta 15 trustee group. Some members in the past expressed sympathy with an activist group that wanted to boycott Israel which the German parliament described as “anti-Semitic”.

A moderator from the Anne Frank Institute was intended to talk to the artists about anti-Semitism, but those vague plans were never realized. The director of the Anne Frank Institute complained in the German media about not following the policy of the Documenta administration and withdrew as mediator on 6 July. Well-known artist Hitto Sterl removed her work because she was unhappy with the way the management handled the anti-Semitic riots.

Schurmann has continued to advocate for artists’ freedom, saying in a recent interview that she fears artists will feel upset in the future. Obviously, she disagreed with the board of directors.

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In a press release, the board of directors expressed its “deep dissatisfaction with apparent anti-Semitic motives” as the five-year arts festival opened. The decision did not come without a fight. The Obermayor of Kassel, who had also previously defended the freedom of artists, continued to support the director.

Denton Watson

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