Discussions with representatives of Jewish communities are intended to steer the documenta scandal in a constructive direction. At the same time, Hesse’s art minister criticizes the form that the dispute over who is responsible has now taken on.

While the dispute over who is responsible for the documenta continues to make waves, talks between Hesse’s Minister of Art and representatives of Jewish communities are intended to advance the anti-Semitism scandal.

“We have made our point of view very clear that after the general initial outrage there must now also be personal consequences,” said the chairman of the board of directors of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, Salomon Korn, on Thursday. Before that, the board members of the State Association of Jewish Communities in Hesse and the Jewish Community in Frankfurt met with Art Minister Angela Dorn (Greens) on Tuesday.

Who is responsible?

Dorn told the dpa on Thursday that her priority is currently “to hold talks, including with representatives of the Jewish communities in Hesse and the Central Council of Jews, and to advance the processing of responsibilities within the documenta gGmbH”. At the same time, she criticized the dispute between Kassel’s Lord Mayor Christian Geselle (SPD) and Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens) about responsibilities at the documenta.

“It currently requires the work of both shareholders in cooperation with the federal sponsor, which does justice to the importance of the documenta as one of the most important art exhibitions in the world and takes into account the fact that nasty anti-Semitic imagery was to be seen here,” explained Dorn is the deputy chair of the documenta supervisory board.

After a work of art classified as anti-Semitic was dismantled at the documenta in Kassel and the Indonesian curatorial collective Ruangrupa had been accused of anti-Semitism for months, Roth called for the federal government to have more influence on the show. She threatens to turn off the money supply otherwise. While the deputy chairman of the supervisory board, Dorn, supports Roth’s demands, the chairman of the supervisory board, Kassel’s journeyman mayor, vehemently rejects them. In a letter to Roth, he was “very irritated” by their behavior and announced that he would forego financial support from Berlin if necessary.

Better composition of the committees required

Dorn said she also lacked the understanding of “how some are now leading the debate about the urgently needed better setup of the documenta committees” because the state of Hesse and the city of Kassel as shareholders already agreed after documenta 14 in 2017 had been about including nationwide and international expertise in the Supervisory Board in addition to their own representatives. “Mr. Geselle also shared the view that the role of the documenta as one of the world’s most important art exhibitions must be reflected in the supervisory board.”

Serious consideration is needed as to why the pictures could be shown and how it will be ensured in the future that the documenta will not be overshadowed by further anti-Semitic or other misanthropic outbursts.

Those responsible, above all the documenta general director Sabine Schormann, acted with gross negligence and, after the anti-Semitic scandal became known, showed little insight through relativizing statements, said Korn from the Jewish community in Frankfurt. “Now it’s time to work through the omissions so that something like this can never happen again.”

Meanwhile, the AfD faction in the Hessian state parliament again called for the documenta to be closed immediately and only released again after a thorough review. “As long as there is a risk that art objects with anti-Semitic statements will be shown at the documenta and that it will thus be degraded to a stage for anti-Jewish resentment, it must not open its doors again,” said the party’s cultural policy spokesman, Frank Grobe, according to the announcement.