Anti-Semitism at Documenta German Art Festival

ByJames I. Robertson

Jul 23, 2022

The German art festival has become the most controversial art exhibition of 2022 due to the anti-Semitism controversy.

Inaugurated last month in Germany, the 15th edition of Documenta has sparked controversy and confusion. For 100 days, just as the festival began to open its doors to the public, crowds expressed their displeasure at the outdoor mural that featured anti-Semitic caricatures of people of the Jewish faith, according to artnews.com

Taring Padi’s People’s Justice (2022), is a 26-foot mural that stopped in Kassel’s central square. The work bears several themes, including the mass genocide of communists, leftists, Gerwani women, Chinese and Javanese Abangan, among many others in 1965. This genocide eventually gave way to a coup. which contributed to Suharto’s rise to the dictatorship, in which he ruled. until 1998.

Anti-Semitic cartoons include a depiction of a Mossad soldier with a pig’s head and a Star of David adorning his scarf. Another Jewish person is depicted with padlocks, an SS symbol on his hat and a cigar, evoking a fusion of Nazism and anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Documenta very quickly removed the mural after it caused a discord, but controversy over anti-Semitism still underlies audience reception of the rest of the festival. This could have a potentially negative effect on future editions of the festival, which is held every five years.

Many artists felt that there had not been enough dialogue around the anti-Semitism controversy and one artist even removed her work from the exhibition as a result.


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