This year’s edition of Documenta, the 15th, is curated by ruangrupa, an Indonesian art collective, and it involves over 1,000 artists, mainly from the global south, hosting exhibitions and events. One group created a kink-friendly nightclub for visitors; another built a sauna. Many of the exhibition’s venues are meant to be places where visitors can participate in events and discuss social and political issues, as much as look at art.
Siddhartha Mitter, reviewing Documenta for The New York Times, said that “everywhere in this show are possibilities thrown open: ways of examining the past, or exchanging in the present, that offer grounds for hope; strategies outside the strictures of state and capitalist systems; and fodder for civic imagination.”
Despite such acclaim, Documenta was embroiled in controversy even before it opened. In January, a protest group called the Alliance Against Antisemitism Kassel accused ruangrupa and other artists of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. In 2019, Germany’s Parliament declared that movement antisemitic, saying it questioned Israel’s right to exist.
The accusations appeared first on a blog, but they were picked up by German newspapers and politicians. In June, the furor went into overdrive when Taring Padi, another Indonesian art collective, installed an artwork called “People’s Justice” in one of Kassel’s main squares.