BERLIN, Germany (AFP) – Jewish leaders and the Israeli embassy in Germany on Monday voiced “disgust” at anti-Semitic images on display at Documenta, one of the world’s largest art fairs.
Documenta has been clouded by controversy for months over the inclusion of a group of Palestinian artists highly critical of the Israeli occupation.
Two days after the exhibition opened to the public, one of the Indonesian art group Taring Paddy’s works has also been criticized for images that both the German government and Jewish groups say have gone too far.
The insulting mural depicts a pig wearing a Mossad helmet.
The same work depicts a man with side locks, often associated with Orthodox Jews, teeth and bloodshot eyes, and wearing a black hat with the SS logo.
“We are disgusted by the anti-Semitic elements publicly displayed at Documenta 15,” the Israeli embassy said in a statement.
“The elements depicted in some of the exhibits are reminiscent of the propaganda used by Goebbels and his fraudsters during the darker times of German history,” it added.
“All the red lines are not just crossed – they are broken.”
Josef Schuster of the Central Jewish Council in Germany noted that “artistic freedom ends where xenophobia begins.”
Culture Minister Claudia Roth also said that this is where “artistic freedom finds its limits”, as she called on the show’s curators to “draw the necessary [conclusions]”
The president of the German-Israeli society, Volker Beck, told the daily Bild that he was suing prosecutors over the photo.
Documenta, held in the German city of Kassel, includes the works of more than 1,500 participants.
For the first time since its launch in 1955, the show is curated by a band, Ruangrupa from Indonesia.
But even on the eve of the show’s opening this weekend, the group has been criticized for including a band called “The Question of Funding” for its links to the BDS boycott movement in Israel.
The BDS was declared anti-Semitic by the German parliament in 2019 and was banned from receiving federal funds. About half of Documenta’s budget of 42 million euros ($ 44 million) comes from public funds.
Opening the exhibition this weekend, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was considering skipping the event.
“While some criticisms are justified of Israeli policies, such as the construction of settlements,” he said, the recognition of the Israeli state is “the basis and precondition for the debate” in Germany.
He called it alarming that some people outside Europe or North America have refused to participate in cultural events involving Jewish Israelis.
It was striking that no Jewish artists from Israel were featured in this issue of Documenta, he noted.