In an interview with the press agency dpa this week, German cultural minister Claudia Roth defended the famed quinquennial Documenta, which is currently facing allegations of anti-Semitism from Jewish advocacy groups.
Documenta first came under scrutiny in January, when the group Alliance Against Anti-Semitism Kassel accused the quinquennial of “involvement of anti-Israeli activists,” referring to the Palestinian roots of two artists in this year’s edition, curated by the Indonesian collective ruangrupa. The allegations center around two artists who are part of the collective the Question of Funding, a participant in Documenta 15, and the Ramallah-based Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, which is on this edition’s artistic team.
Documenta has vehemently denied the allegations of anti-Semitism. In a statement last week to ARTnews, the quinquennial described the allegations against the artists as “racist.” As pushback mounted earlier this year, Documenta said it would stage an event series devoted to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
In a letter penned this week to Roth, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, accused Documenta of exhibiting “a clear bias against anti-Semitism” in its plans to hold the talks series meant to to address the topic.
Roth sided this week with Documenta. In the dpa interview, Roth said that anti-Semitism “has no place at the Documenta.” But, she said, “artistic freedom is a key point.”
Responding specifically to Schuster’s criticism of an event in the talks series that focuses on “anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian racism,” Roth said, “It is important to bring the different positions into the talks.”
Although she did not specifically mention the scrutiny being paid to some Documenta participants’ nationality, she seemed to allude to it when she said that artists’ “origins alone cannot determine what is shown and what is not.”