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Documenta has been Rattled to its Very Core

By: Ray Zhao

Documenta is the modern art show. Founded in 1955, its only major rival has been the Venice Biennale. Held once every five years, the show is immensely popular, with its 100-day run in 2017 drawing in well over a million visitors.

Now, Documenta has been trapped in a scandal that has shook the art. This year’s Documenta was the 15th edition of the show. Curated by ruangrupa, it featured over a thousand artists, with most being from the global south. However, anti-Semitic art was displayed at an exhibit in Kassel. The artwork, which contained a Jewish caricature, has caused Documenta lose trust and credibility in the art community and even worldwide. Because of this, Sabine Schormann, Documenta’s director general, has resigned.

Despite its acclaim, Documenta was also in other scandals in early January. Alliance Against Antisemitism Kassel had accused ruangrupa of supporting a movement the German government had deemed antisemitic.

According to the New York Times’s Alex Marshall, “In June, the furor went into overdrive when Taring Padi, another Indonesian art collective, installed an artwork called “People’s Justice” in one of Kassel’s main squares.”

The twenty-year-old “People’s Justice” is, as Germany’s culture minister puts it, antisemitic imagery.

Alex Marshall also reports that the artwork was removed, and both Taring Padi and ruangrupa apologized. Documenta said it was also inspecting its art for any other antisemitic arts.

Ms. Schormann tried to distance herself from the controversy by saying in a news release that she was “not responsible” for the artistic content of Documenta, but she eventually resigned.

Documenta said that Ms. Schormann would be replaced by an interim director general, but no timeline was given on when that would happen.

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