Over the weekend, a work about Antifa by the Peng! Collective, whose work has appeared in the Berlin Biennale, Manifesta, and other major biennials, was briefly removed from a German museum amid controversy over its subject matter.
The work was taken off view on Friday from the Chemnitz Art Collections in Germany because it made it made explicit statements regarding Antifa. Titled Antifa – Myth and Truth, the piece figured in the show “Gegenwarten / Presences” and included explanatory wall text which criticized the dissemination of the “horseshoe theory” by various German political parties, including the far right Alternativ für Deutschland.
The debunked notion states that the people toward the far left and right ends of the political spectrum have more in common than would appear. That theory has controversially been used to equate ideologies of the left protest movement Antifa with neo-Nazis. Ultimately, after a sign telling viewers that the piece does not reflect the views of the institution was appeneded, the work was allowed to remain on view.
“The art collections told us that we had to change the text of an exhibition or that the exhibition would not open,” Nika Blum, a representative for the collective, told MDR Sachsen, a German-language outlet.
According to the German-language outlet Monopol, Frederic Bussmann, director of the Chemnitz Art Collections, demanded that the party names be removed from the wall text, to keep the work politically neutral. The Chemnitz is one of the largest municipal art collections in Germany, and consists of four institutions: the Museum am Theaterplatz, the Museum Gunzenhauser, the Schlossbergmuseum, and the Henry van de Velde Museum.
“It looked like it was a statement from the art collections,” Bußmann told Monopol.
For “Gegenwarten / Presences”, which runs until October 25, artists were invited to present works that engaged with the “specific social, political, and urban issues of the City of Chemnitz.”