Though roiled by antisemitism allegations, 738,000 people attended, a modest 17% decline from the previous, pre-pandemic edition.

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Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture’s installation “The Rituals of Things” at Documenta 15

Documenta 15’s relatively strong showing may suggest that the national and international controversy surrounding allegations of antisemitism riddling the show has not substantially made a dent in visitor numbers. Beginning in May, accusations of antisemitism raised by a pro-Israel blogger and lodged against Documenta’s curatorial group ruangrupa and Palestinian participating artists in the exhibition were reported on by German media outlets. In June, a banner titled “People’s Justice” by Indonesian collective Taring Padi was removed by leaders and curators of the exhibition in response to criticism of certain depictions of Jewish figures as hateful. German culture minister Claudia Roth condemned the antisemitic imagery at Documenta, and German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier used his opening speech at the exhibition to encourage its leaders to “do more” to address antisemitism there. Later in the summer, Documenta director Sabine Schormann resigned. Throughout the exhibition’s run, artists and organizers have denounced the antisemitism allegations as politically motivated attempts to suppress the expression of criticism against Israel’s policies that have been described by human rights groups, including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and B’Tselem, as apartheid.

Alexander Farenholtz, managing director of Documenta, sees the latest edition as a success. “In view of the antisemitism debate that accompanied it, this documenta did not have an easy time placing its actual artistic concerns,” Farenholtz said. “I wish that when we look back at the exhibition we could also see it through the eyes of the many visitors: namely, as an artistic endeavor that addresses key issues of our time.”

Before this year’s iteration, attendance at Documenta has steadily increased. In 1997, Documenta 10 saw 628,776 visitors — a figure that has risen each edition before this one.


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by Scotti Hill
Tagged: antisemitism, Documenta, Documenta 15, Germany, Kassel, pandemic

Jasmine Liu

Jasmine Liu is a former staff writer for Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied anthropology and mathematics at Stanford University.More by Jasmine Liu is a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today. Founded in 2009, is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.