Anti-Semitic artwork removed from German exhibition after public outcry


Central Europe


Part of the controversial artwork. Photo Twitter, EWagensveld

The controversial work of the Indonesian artist collective named “Taring Padi” has been removed from its exhibition “Documenta” in the German town of Kassel. The work caused upheaval, because it was said to contain anti-Semitic elements. In addition to national voices speaking out against the work, the state of Israel demanded its removal.

The controversial work showed under more a figure with a pig's head that wears a helmet with the word Mossad written on it. That is reported by Spiegel. The Mossad is the Israeli secret security service.

Christian Geselle, the mayor of the town of Kassel, said to Süddeutsche Zeitung that “something happened that should not have happened.” He said that the curating collective of Documenta had assured him that anti-Semitism would not have a place. Geselle: “In this case, they clearly failed in their responsibilities.”

The general director of Documenta, Sabine Schorman, apologised on Tuesday. She said that they should have kept their promise that no anti-Semitic content would be displayed. “Anti-Semitic depictions must not have a place in Germany, not even in a world-wide art show”, she said.

“Crossing of borders”

Jewish organisations in Germany were outraged when the artwork was published, Spiegel reports. "This is a clear crossing of borders", the director of the Anne Frank educational centre said. "These pictures leave no room for another interpretation. It is clear anti-Semitic agitation." He demanded that the work be removed.

Also, the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany was infuriated. Earlier, he had already criticised the art group, but he was accused of racism at the time.

The Israeli embassy in Berlin mingled in the issue as well. It demanded that the work be removed. "We are outraged by the anti-Semitic elements", the ambassador said in a statement. "The ones shown are reminiscent of the propaganda of Goebbels and his henchmen in the dark times of German history."

According to an announcement by the Indonesian artist collective, the work does not aim to portray "any population group in a negative way."

Artistic freedom

The German minister of State for Culture and Media, Claudia Roth, said earlier that anti-Semitism is forbidden but that people should consider artistic freedom as well. "You can argue in a democracy, but you have to get to know each other, be open to each other, understand certain perspectives from both sides", she said to Juedische Allgemeine. However, she added that action was necessary in the case of anti-Semitism.

Yet minister Roth asserted on Tuesday that the artwork should be removed. That is reported by Süddeutsche Zeitung. Roth then said the work “clearly has anti-Semitic elements.”



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