Anti-semitism at German art festival Documenta

Image - anti-semitism controversy: Kira Stephanie Loba/shutterstock

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

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

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

The anti-semitic caricatures include a depiction of a Mossad soldier with a pig’s head and with a star of David adorning his scarf. Another Jewish person is shown with sidelocks, 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 had caused contention, however the anti-semitism controversy still underlies the public’s reception of the remainder of the festival. This could have potentially negative effect on future editions of the festival, which is held every five years. 

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


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Annie Dabb

From Newcastle originally, Annie is based in Manchester and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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