Yesterday, Friday, the documenta supervisory board held a special meeting that lasted late into the night. He has now announced the result of the meeting: Documenta General Director Sabine Schormann is resigning from her post after she had been widely criticized for not dealing with the anti-Semitism scandal at Documenta fifteen. However, Schormann did not accept the criticism and defended her work.
The supervisory board of the art exhibition announced on Saturday that they had mutually agreed to terminate their service contract at short notice. An interim solution for the successor is now being sought.
The committee around the chairman, Kassel’s mayor Christian Geselle (SPD), and his deputy, Hesse’s art minister Angela Dorn (Greens), drew the conclusion from the anti-Semitism scandal at this year’s show. A work with anti-Semitic imagery, the large banner “People’s Justice” by the Indonesian artist group Taring Padi on the central Friedrichsplatz, was removed after a wave of outrage just a few days after the start of the world art exhibition.
Since January there have been allegations against the Ruangrupa curator collective, also from Indonesia, criticizing the closeness of individual members to the Israel boycott movement BDS.
The supervisory board clearly distanced itself from the work: “The presentation of the banner “People’s Justice” by the Taring Padi artist collective, with its anti-Semitic imagery, was a clear crossing of borders and the documenta was thereby inflicted with considerable damage.” The incident must be clarified promptly.
In the past few weeks, demands have been repeatedly made against the 60-year-old to resign, including from the Central Council of Jews in Germany and from the CDU MP Gitta Connemann. Art Minister Angela Dorn had also sharply criticized Schormann. Among other things, the general director was accused of inaction in dealing with the scandal.
Most recently, the head of the Anne Frank educational institution, Meron Mendel, withdrew as a planned and already named advisor to the Documenta. He was actually supposed to be part of a commission of experts that was supposed to check the works presented at Documenta fifteen for possible further anti-Semitic content. Schormann, however, did not follow up on their announcements with action, he criticized. As a result, Hito Steyerl, one of the most important international artists, declared that her works would be withdrawn from the show.
At the beginning of the week, Schormann vehemently defended himself in a detailed statement on the World Art Exhibition website. With her portrayal of what happened, however, she met with harsh criticism and provoked, among other things, the contradiction of Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens), who presented the events since January differently, as well as advisers who had been called in during the spring and their work by Schormann seen wrongly explained.
The cultural manager Schormann moved to Kassel as general director in autumn 2018. The year before, the non-profit Documenta GmbH hit the headlines because of a deficit in the millions at Documenta 14 in 2017. The managing director at the time, the art historian Annette Kulenkampf, then resigned from her post. For a transitional period, the music manager Wolfgang Orthmayr initially managed the business.