Documenta director resigns following public outrage over antisemitic artwork

International contemporary art exhibition Documenta director Sabine Schormann resigns after major outrage over an antisemitic artwork which was first covered up and then taken down in Kassel, Germany.

A continuous mural “People’s Justice” by the Indonesian art collective Taring Padi was installed at the Documenta art exhibition, yet it caused major outrage over being antisemitic and was taken down a few days after the opening, and despite of her public apology, the director general of the art exhibition has been forced to resign.

The work, originally exhibited in 2002 in Australia, features a soldier-like figure depicted as a pig wearing a scarf with a Star of David and a helmet bearing the word „Mossad” (the name of Israel’s national intelligence agency). Other figures are also clearly antisemitic in nature. A figure, wearing a black hat with a runic Nazi „SS” insignia, has sidelocks — like those associated with Orthodox Jews.

Following strong condemnation from the Jewish community, on June 16, the supervisory board of Documenta expressed “profound dismay” about “clearly antisemitic” content after the show opened in June, saying an agreement had been reached with Sabine Schormann, the director general, to “terminate [her] contract”, reports The Guardian.

An interim director would be appointed, a statement added. The supervisory board promised a full investigation, conceding that “a lot of trust has unfortunately been lost” and pledging to prevent other “antisemitic incidents”.

Germany’s culture minister, Claudia Roth, backed Schormann’s departure and demanded an investigation into how antisemitic work was admitted in the first place.

Documenta is organized every five years in the city of Kassel, Germany, and features the works of more than 1,500 artists. This year, it was curated by a collective, the Indonesian Ruangrupa, which came under fire for including ‘The Question of Funding’ collective over its links to the BDS boycott Israel movement, which has been barred from receiving German federal funds since 2019. Around half of Documenta’s budget of €42m ($42.4m) comes from public funds.