Eröffnung der documenta fifteen DEU, Deutschland, Hessen, Kassel, 18.06.2022: Die fünfzehnte Ausgabe der documenta findet vom 18.06 bis 25.09. 2022 statt. Besuch und Ansprache des Bundespräsidenten zur Eröffnung. Claudia Roth Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Kulturstaatsministerin Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien neben Dr. Sabine Schormann, Generaldirektorin der documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH *** Opening of documenta fifteen DEU, Germany, Hesse, Kassel, 18 06 2022 The fifteenth edition of documenta will take place from 18 06 to 25 09 2022 Visit and address by the President of Germany at the opening Claudia Roth Bündnis 90 Die Grünen , Minister of State for Culture Federal Government Commissioner for Culture a

It was about time. The documenta supervisory board, chaired by Kassel’s mayor Christian Geselle (SPD), is said to have met late into the night on Friday, after which there was silence.

An eloquent silence, however. One could calculate that further appeals to deal with the anti-Semitism scandal at the Documenta would probably not be as long in coming as the one decisive change: the resignation of Sabine Schormann, the general director of the world art exhibition.

But would it come to that? After the scandal, Geselle defended Documenta fifteen in a similar way to Schormann, he didn’t want the show to be under general suspicion. His deputy on the supervisory board, Hesse’s Minister of Art Angela Dorn (Greens), had struck a clearer tone. Were there arguments between the two about the culture manager who has been the head of Documenta since 2018?

At 1:50 p.m. on Saturday, the press release pops up in the mail. “The supervisory board, the shareholders and general manager Dr. Sabine Schormann mutually agree to terminate their managing director service contract in the short term,” it says – and that an interim successor will be sought first.

Was there a line of Dorn that prevailed? Only the last of the five points in the declaration seems to be Geselle’s account: The supervisory board is promoting the fact that this “for the first time from the perspective of the so-called ‘global South'” curated Documenta with over 1500 participating artists “also in their entirety and uniqueness is valued”.

It was about time. After the scandal at the end of June about the large banner “People’s Justice” by the Indonesian artist group Taring Padi on the central Friedrichsplatz, which was initially hung and removed after three days, with anti-Semitic motifs on it, one soon wondered what was actually more serious. That the anti-Jewish work could be presented at all after the Ruangrupa curator collective, also Indonesian, had already come under criticism in January for its closeness to the Israel boycott movement BDS. Or the way the scandal was dealt with under Schormann’s leadership after the banner was removed.

Schormann’s (non-)crisis management made a significant contribution to the fact that the international reputation and reputation of the Documenta was damaged more and more every day. “Unfortunately, a lot of trust has been lost by hanging up the banner and also in the course of crisis management in the past few weeks,” says the supervisory board, which includes representatives of the city of Kassel and the Hessian state parliament.

The federal government does not sit on the committee, it only contributes a small part to the Documenta budget. Separating from Schormann is the only possible, the right decision – to maybe save what can be saved.

Just two examples of Schormann’s mismanagement, whether from stubbornness and defiance or from being overwhelmed. When the Federal Culture Committee met on July 7th, one day before a Bundestag debate on the subject, Schormann canceled due to illness, did not send a representative, and did not comment remotely or afterwards on Daniel Botmann, for example criticism put forward by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Then Meron Mendel, the head of the Anne Frank educational institution appointed as crisis advisor, threw it down. She responded to Schormann’s accusation of inactivity with a long statement on the Documenta website.

In it she not only rejected Mendel’s criticism, but actually every one. But her account of the events immediately reaped harsh opposition, especially from the visibly annoyed Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens). Even experts whom Schormann mentioned in their statement as consultants who had already been active in the spring, such as the curator Anselm Frank, distanced themselves from Schormann’s description of precisely this consulting activity.

Recently, not only have Schormann’s demands for his resignation increased, but irritation has piled up, scandal after scandal. It was always worse.

As expected, the step is now welcomed. Minister of State for Culture Roth told the “Frankfurter Rundschau”: “It is right and necessary that we can now look at how anti-Semitic imagery could have been exhibited and draw the necessary conclusions for the art exhibition”.

Felix Klein, the federal government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, also called Schormann’s dismissal “overdue”. Anti-Semitism cannot be accepted in any form, “regardless of where the artists come from,” Klein told the “Bild” newspaper.

It is easy to overlook how politicians are taking themselves out of the line of fire with Schormann’s resignation. Above all, Kassel’s Mayor Geselle, who, like Schormann, apologized to the federal culture committee for budget negotiations in Kassel. They seem to have been more important to him. But also Claudia Roth, who was credibly shocked by the scandal, but had previously shown herself to be overly trusting of those responsible for the Documenta.

How does it go from here? The supervisory board, which in the statement first expresses its “deep dismay” at the “clear transgression” of the presentation of a work with clearly anti-Semitic motifs, once again calls for experts to be consulted. We are talking about a scientific support, “made up of scientists* on contemporary anti-Semitism, on the German and global context and postcolonialism, and on art”. This should take stock, provide advice and identify possible further works with anti-Semitic motifs.

It should finally happen what has been publicly demanded for weeks. However, in a panel of experts in which all the positions that clashed in the scandal are represented. Behind the scandal is a far more comprehensive debate: that between postcolonialists and anti-Semitism critics. Since the dispute over the invitation of the postcolonialist Achille Mbembe as the opening speaker of the Ruhrtriennale 2020, it has been picking up speed again and again.

The supervisory board suggests that the selection committee – the body that selected Ruangrupa for the artistic direction – should be involved in the “supervision”. That’s strange, and again questionable: the selection committee also includes art experts who have come under criticism for their proximity to BDS. If Documenta wants to regain the trust it has lost, it must rely on support from outside its own ranks.