Documenta had been clouded in controversy for months over its inclusion of a Palestinian artists’ group strongly critical of the Israeli occupation.
On Monday – two days after the show opened to the public – one of the works on display by Indonesian art group Taring Padi also came under fire over depictions that both the German government and Jewish groups say went too far.
On the offending mural is the depiction of a pig wearing a helmet blazoned “Mossad”.
On the same work, a man is depicted with sidelocks often associated with Orthodox Jews, fangs and bloodshot eyes, and wearing a black hat with the SS-insignia.
“We are disgusted by the anti-Semitic elements publicly displayed at the Documenta 15 exhibition,” said Israel’s embassy in a statement.
“Elements being portrayed in certain exhibits are reminiscent of propaganda used by Goebbels and his goons during darker times in German history,” it added.
“All red lines have not only been crossed, they have been shattered.”
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Josef Schuster, of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, noted that “artistic freedom ends where xenophobia begins”.
Culture Minister Claudia Roth also said this is where “artistic freedom finds its limits”, as she urged the show’s curators to “draw the necessary
The president of the German-Israel Society, Volker Beck, told Bild daily that he was filing a case with prosecutors over the picture.
Documenta later said it and the Indonesian collective had decided to cover up the work and install an explanation next to it.
No Israeli Jewish artist
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 being curated by a collective, Indonesia’s Ruangrupa.
But even in the run-up to the show’s opening this weekend, the group has come under fire for including the collective called The Question of Funding over its links to the BDS boycott Israel movement.
BDS was branded anti-Semitic by the German parliament in 2019 and barred from receiving federal funds. Around half of Documenta’s 42-million-euro budget comes from public funds.
Opening the exhibition this weekend, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he had considered skipping the event.
“While some criticism is justified of Israeli policies, such as on settlement building”, the recognition of the Israeli state is “the basis and prerequisite of the debate” in Germany.
He called it disturbing that some from outside Europe or North America had refused to take part in cultural events in which Jewish Israelis are participating.
It was striking that no Jewish artist from Israel was represented at this edition of Documenta, he noted.
By Hui Min NEO