BERLIN — The head of a major art show in Germany has resigned after an exhibit featuring antisemitic elements prompted an outcry at the event’s opening last month.
The board of the documenta fifteen show said Saturday that Sabine Schormann was leaving her post as chief executive by mutual agreement. It also expressed regret about what it described as “unambiguously antisemitic motifs” visible in one of the works shown at the opening weekend.
“The presentation of the banner ‘People’s Justice’ by the artists collective Taring Padi with its antisemitic imagery was a clear transgression and thereby caused significant harm to the documenta,” the board said.
The banner featured a soldier with the face of a pig, wearing a neckerchief with a Star of David and a helmet inscribed with the word “Mossad,” the name of Israel’s intelligence agency. It was taken down within days after widespread criticism from Jewish groups and German and Israeli officials.
The Taring Padi collective, based in Indonesia, has already apologized for the incident. It said the work — which it said was first exhibited at the South Australia Art Festival in Adelaide 20 years ago — was “in no way related” to antisemitism, but instead referred to the post-1965 dictatorship in Indonesia.
“We are sorry that details of this banner are misunderstood other than their original purpose. We apologize for the injuries caused in this context,” it said last month.
It acknowledged that the incident followed months of debate about alleged antisemitism, which it and the show’s organizers had strongly rejected.
Germany’s president raised the issue of antisemitism during his speech at the show’s opening, saying there were “limits” to what artists can do when they address political issues in a country that is still atoning for the Holocaust.
The board of the documenta, which is staged every four years in the central German city of Kassel, has called for a swift investigation into the incident.