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CULTURE

German art show slammed over anti-Semitic images

Jewish leaders and Israel's embassy to Germany have voiced "disgust" over anti-Semitic images on display at Documenta, one of the world's biggest art fairs.

A woman stands with the Israeli flag next to a mural at the Documenta 15 exhibition on June 20th 2022.
A woman stands with the Israeli flag next to a partially covered mural at the Documenta 15 exhibition on June 20th 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Swen Pförtner

Documenta had been clouded in controversy for months over its inclusion of a Palestinian artists’ group strongly critical of the Israeli occupation.

On Monday – two days after the show opened to the public – one of the works on display by Indonesian art group Taring Padi also came under fire over depictions that both the German government and Jewish groups say went too far.

On the offending mural is the depiction of a pig wearing a helmet blazoned “Mossad”.

On the same work, a man is depicted with sidelocks often associated with Orthodox Jews, fangs and bloodshot eyes, and wearing a black hat with the SS-insignia.

“We are disgusted by the anti-Semitic elements publicly displayed at the Documenta 15 exhibition,” said Israel’s embassy in a statement.

“Elements being portrayed in certain exhibits are reminiscent of propaganda used by Goebbels and his goons during darker times in German history,” it added.

“All red lines have not only been crossed, they have been shattered.”

READ ALSO: Top German art show starts amid anti-Semitism row

Josef Schuster, of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, noted that “artistic freedom ends where xenophobia begins”.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth also said this is where “artistic freedom finds its limits”, as she urged the show’s curators to “draw the necessary
consequences”.

The president of the German-Israel Society, Volker Beck, told Bild daily that he was filing a case with prosecutors over the picture.

Documenta later said it and the Indonesian collective had decided to cover up the work and install an explanation next to it.

No Israeli Jewish artist

Documenta, held in the German city of Kassel, includes the works of more than 1,500 participants.

For the first time since its launch in 1955, the show is being curated by a collective, Indonesia’s Ruangrupa.

But even in the run-up to the show’s opening this weekend, the group has come under fire for including the collective called The Question of Funding over its links to the BDS boycott Israel movement.

BDS was branded anti-Semitic by the German parliament in 2019 and barred from receiving federal funds. Around half of Documenta’s 42-million-euro budget comes from public funds.

Opening the exhibition this weekend, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he had considered skipping the event.

“While some criticism is justified of Israeli policies, such as on settlement building”, the recognition of the Israeli state is “the basis and prerequisite of the debate” in Germany.

He called it disturbing that some from outside Europe or North America had refused to take part in cultural events in which Jewish Israelis are participating.

It was striking that no Jewish artist from Israel was represented at this edition of Documenta, he noted.

By Hui Min NEO

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CULTURE

Beckmann self-portrait breaks German auction record

A self-portrait by expressionist artist Max Beckmann smashed the record price for a painting sold at auction in Germany, when it was put before buyers in Berlin on Thursday.

Beckmann self-portrait breaks German auction record

As the hammer came down, the highest bid for Beckmann’s “Selbstbildnis gelb-rosa” (Self-Portrait Yellow-Pink) stood at 20 million euros ($21 million).

Beckmann’s work, which features the artist during his Dutch exile from Nazi Germany, is widely considered a masterpiece.

The sum was “the highest price that has ever been offered for a painting”, auctioneer Markus Krause told the room to applause.

Including fees, the price of the self-portrait will come to €23.2 million, according to the auction house Grisebach.

The previous German record was set in 2018 by another of Beckmann’s works, “Die Ägypterin” (The Egyptian Woman), which fetched €4.7 million.

READ ALSO: Art in Germany: 10 critically acclaimed galleries you can’t miss

The record price for a painting by the artist was set in 2017 when his work “Hölle der Vögel” (Bird’s Hell) — among Beckmann’s most important anti-Nazi statements  – sold at Christie’s in London in 2017 for £36 million.

Beckmann’s self-portrait was initially a gift to his wife Mathilde, known as Quappi, who kept it until her death in 1986. The picture had been in a private Swiss collection for decades, and not shown in public since the mid-1990s.

The painting was displayed behind glass at a public preview ahead of the auction to guard against vandalism by climate activists who have recently been targeting artworks.

Beckmann (1884-1950) enjoyed massive acclaim in Germany during his lifetime, with top dealers placing his work with private collectors and major institutions.

That was until the Nazi regime labelled his daring, politically charged art “degenerate” and removed his paintings from German museums in 1937.

READ ALSO: Germany returns final Nazi-looted artwork from pensioner’s trove

Professionally thwarted and increasingly under threat, Beckmann left for Amsterdam, where he lived in self-exile for a decade before moving to the United States.

Beckmann would ultimately die in New York at the age of 66, of a heart attack on a sidewalk on his way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paintings by Beckmann, now considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, have exploded in value in recent decades.

The most paid for an artwork this year was $195 million, for an iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe by American pop art visionary Andy Warhol.

The bumper price tag is the second largest all-time behind Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million.

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