23.06.2022, Hessen, Kassel: Sabine Schormann, Generaldirektorin der documenta und des Museums Fridericianum, spricht bei einem Interview. Die Kunstausstellung geht bis zum 25.09.2022. Foto: Swen Pförtner/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The general director of the documenta, Sabine Schormann, has defended the handling of the world art show with the allegations of anti-Semitism. In a statement published on the Documenta website on Tuesday evening, she emphasized the freedom of the artistic direction and reported on her concern that she would not be welcome in Germany.

Schormann rejected the accusation that he had been inactive for too long, referring not only to the current anti-Semitism scandal because of the large “People’s Justice” banner with anti-Semitic caricatures that was initially imposed and then removed on the central Friedrichsplatz.

Since the first allegations of proximity to the Israel boycott movement BDS by Documenta participants in January, there have been many discussions: with the curators and artists, external experts, the supervisory board, Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth and also the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Even then, curators and artists “feared censorship and therefore rejected an external panel of experts,” Schormann writes. “They felt that they were under general suspicion and defamed and sometimes threatened because of their origin, their skin color, their religion or their sexual orientation. In this respect, there was already a clear defensive attitude towards interventions in art in January.” Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth had proposed an accompanying expert committee.

Schormann also responded to criticism of the hesitant removal of the work “People’s Justice”. Taring Padi’s banner with the anti-Semitic motifs was not taken down immediately because they first wanted to talk to the curators and the artists, she explained.

“Removal of the work from the exhibition against the will of the artistic direction and the artists would have been a significant encroachment on artistic freedom as a last resort.” “that there is no criminal liability”.

The fact that, after dismantling, there were repeated calls for external experts “with decision-making powers” to review the exhibition, “the relationship of trust with ruangrupa and the artists was enormously strained,” says Schormann. The fact that the committee should be able to uninvite artists is understood “as (self-)censorship”. Recently, incidents with a racist and transphobic background have “given the impression that they are not welcome in Kassel and Germany or are even at risk”.

In the middle of last week, the Bundestag and the Bundestag Culture Committee dealt with the case. Sabine Schormann did not accept the committee’s invitation at short notice, for reasons of illness, as it was said. During the debates, her resignation was repeatedly called for, including by the CDU MP Gitta Connemann.

At the end of last week, the head of the Anne Frank educational institution, Meron Mendel, accused the organizers of not having reacted adequately to the anti-Semitism scandal. Mendel gave up his commitment as an external expert and accused the Documenta management of “playing for time”. Nothing happened more than two weeks after the announcement of his cooperation. Phone calls went unanswered and his request to speak to Ruangrupa was “put off with excuses.”

Schormann now contradicted Mendel publicly: “Various representations” of Mendel in interviews “cannot be understood by us”: One was always available, the tasks were clearly communicated.