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Documenta boss Schormann resigns from office


After the anti-Semitism scandal at the documenta, general director Sabine Schormann is resigning from her position. It was said that they had agreed on this by mutual agreement.

Only a few days ago, documenta boss  Sabine Schormann defended her actions after the anti-Semitism scandal with reference to artistic freedom. She published a detailed statement on the documenta 15 website, about which Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth was "very surprised and alienated".

On Friday evening, the documenta supervisory board and the shareholders finally met to discuss how to proceed. This Saturday it was then said that it had been mutually agreed to terminate the employment contract with Sabine Schormann. An interim successor will initially be sought. The committee around the chairman, Kassel's mayor Christian Geselle (SPD), and his deputy, Hesse's art minister Angela Dorn (Greens), drew the conclusion from the anti-Semitism scandal at this year's documenta. 

Specialist team to examine documenta

The supervisory board expressed its "deep dismay" that "clearly anti-Semitic motifs" could be seen on the opening weekend of the art show. The presentation of the banner "People's Justice" by the artist collective Taring Padi was a "clear crossing of borders" in "its anti-Semitic imagery". "The documenta was thus inflicted with considerable damage." A lot of trusts was lost. Now you have to win this back.

"Academic support" from scientists whose specialist areas are anti-Semitism, postcolonialism, and art should now also help here. On the one hand, they should take a look at the "processes, structures and receptions" of documenta 15 and make recommendations for the processing. On the other hand, they should check whether other anti-Semitic elements can be seen at the documenta.

Claudia Roth and Felix Klein welcome decisions

Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth welcomed the separation from Schormann and the resolutions of the Supervisory Board to deal with the scandal. "These are the first important steps towards a necessary realignment of this important fixture for contemporary art worldwide," she told the "Frankfurter Rundschau".

The federal government's anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, called Schormann's resignation "overdue". It is now a matter of drawing the necessary structural conclusions. "Anti-Semitism must not be accepted in any form in cultural life, regardless of where the cultural workers come from," said Klein. The decision of the Bundestag on the so-called BDS movement must in future "be the binding guideline for the use of public funds in cultural funding".


The American Jewish Committee criticized the board of directors. He still doesn't understand the problem when he talks about allegations of anti-Semitism. "After all, for weeks it hasn't been about 'reproaches', but about the scandal that anti-Semitic Stürmer-style caricatures were exhibited during the documenta," said director Remko Leemhuis of the "Bild" newspaper. "Der Stürmer" was an anti-Semitic hate newspaper founded in Nuremberg in 1923 and published almost until the end of National Socialist rule in Germany.

Ruangrupa not welcome in Germany?

The "People's Justice" banner was first covered and then taken down after heavy criticism. The artist collective issued a public apology. With that, the anti-Semitism debate about documenta 15 had only reached its climax. Months before the start, there had been allegations of anti-Semitism against the curating artist collective Ruangrupa from Indonesia.

Schormann had written in her statement that since the first allegations became known in January, many discussions had taken place - with the curators and artists, external experts, the supervisory board, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and with Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth. At that time, curators and artists "feared censorship and therefore rejected an external panel of experts". Schormann called the incident "extremely painful" and expressed her "deepest regret" that the banner was even installed. At the same time, however, she also emphasized the freedom of artistic direction and spoke of the concern of the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa that they would not be welcome in Germany.

At a distance from the documenta

Schormann's handling of the scandal has been heavily criticized in recent weeks. Daniel Botmann, managing director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called for her resignation as well as that of Kassel's mayor Geselle, the chairman of the supervisory board of the documenta gGmbH. 

Last week, Meron Mendel, head of the Anne Frank educational institution, and the artist Hito Steyerl also  distanced themselves from the documenta management. Mendel, who wanted to help deal with the anti-Semitism scandal, gave up his advisory mandate. The German-Japanese media artist and author Hito Steyerl had her film work removed from the exhibition in protest.

The documenta takes place in Kassel every five years and, alongside the Venice Biennale, is considered the most important show for contemporary art.