The documenta is globally significant, but is locally responsible. Now the federal government wants more influence – and more external expertise. After continued criticism, the curatorial team issued an apology.


The dispute over the documenta in Kassel continues. The federal government wants more influence, the general secretary wants to stay and the curatorial collective of the show has apologized. On the to-do list for the next few days: reviewing the works on display.

The general director of documenta fifteen, Sabine Schormann, will remain in office. She wanted to “bring the ship back on course,” she told the German Press Agency. In heavy seas, a captain does not disembark.

The work “People’s Justice” by the Indonesian artist collective Taring Padi caused a wave of outrage because of its anti-Semitic imagery. The banner was removed on Tuesday evening.

Curators: “They all failed”

The curatorial collective Ruangrupa apologized on Thursday evening: “We all failed to discover the anti-Semitic figures in the work,” says the documenta fifteen website. “It’s our fault. We apologize for the disappointment, shame, frustration, betrayal and shock we have caused to viewers.”

Ruangrupa was determined “to save and continue the positive aspects of this exhibition together with us,” Schormann had previously explained. The examination of the incidents will show whether and which further consequences are necessary.

Regarding demands that the artworks should have been checked beforehand, she said that was not the responsibility of the management. “That is the core task of the artistic direction.” However, she announced that there would be a “precise and careful” examination of the other works for critical content, also with the help of external experts.

Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth had previously called for consequences for the structure of the art exhibition. Basically, the federal government wants more influence on the documenta. Those responsible must ensure promptly “that no further anti-Semitic works are exhibited at the documenta”. In the future, responsibilities should be “clearly defined and agreed”.

There has already been a resignation

The withdrawal of the federal government from the supervisory board in 2018 while maintaining federal funding is described in Roth’s plan as a “serious mistake”. That should change again. Schormann sees the move to give the federal government more influence on the documenta as positive: “In any case, it’s good for an exhibition that has global aspirations if there is corresponding supra-regional expertise in the supervisory bodies.”

Meanwhile, at the documenta forum, a support committee for the exhibition that takes place every five years, there was a huge crash. The chairman, Jörg Sperling, had to resign after criticizing the removal of the Taring Padi image in a dpa interview. The other board members distanced themselves from Sperling’s statements. A new chairman must now be found. (dpa)

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