Director at major art exhibit in Germany resigns after antisemitism controversy

Sabine Schormann, the managing director of contemporary art company Documenta, has resigned following an art show after an antisemitic image surfaced.

Schormann initially took the step to keep the banner stating that she believed in freedom of artistic direction. “Removing the work from the exhibition against the will of the artistic director and the artists would have ultimately been a significant encroachment on artistic freedom,” Schormann said. After outcry about the imagery, Schormann left her post by mutual consent.

Documenta’s board released a statement regarding the imagery and also confirmed that Alexander Farenholtz would step in as the new director.

The board “its deep consternation that clearly antisemitic motifs were to be seen on the opening weekend of Documenta Fifteen.” The 15th Documenta exhibit was its largest to date, however an 8 by 12 foot banner created by Indonesian artist Taring Padi made the wrong kind of headlines.

The banner was called “People’s Justice,” and features cartoon like Jewish military figures, one of which is wearing the SS logo on a black hat. The figure also has fangs and sidecurls, similar to those worn by Jewish Orthodox men. A Jewish soldier, who looks like a pig, has the word “Mossad” written on his helmet. Mossad is Israel’s national intelligence agency.

The artist released a statement to clarify the meaning of the piece of art.  The statement said that they banner was intended to show the “violence, exploitation and censorship” under their former President Suharto. The piece was also meant to convey “expose the complex power relationships that are at play behind these injustices,” and further show the dynamics of foreign governments who either “openly or secretly” support military rule.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said that Schormann’s resignation came far too late. Their President Josef Schuster said “Even worse, the reputation of the Federal Republic has suffered immense damage due to irresponsible action.”

Remko Leemhuis, the director of the American Jewish Committee Berlin Lawrence, wrote in an email that the decision to include “People’s Justice” in the exhibition highlighted that there is a “massive problem” with antisemitism in both German art and culture.




The following two tabs change content below.
Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

Leave a Reply