August 23, 2017

Alt-Right Politician Protests Kassel’s Acquisition of Documenta 14 Artwork

KASSEL, GERMANY—Kassel city councilman Thomas Materner, who is a member of AfD—a xenophobic nationalist political group—has threatened to organize a wave of protests at Olu Oguibe’s Documenta 14 work, an obelisk dedicated to refugees, should the city choose to acquire it, Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine reports.

Materner used language similar to the Nazi regime, which adopted the term “degenerate art” to describe modernist works, when he called the monument “ideologically polarizing, deformed art.” While discussing the acquisition of Documenta 14 artworks at a city council meeting, he said the AfD party will call for people to demonstrate in front of the piece “after each terrorist attack carried out by an immigrant.”

In response, Documenta 14’s artistic director, Adam Szymczyk, said he was “horrified” by Materner’s words about the piece. Titled Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), the nearly fifty-three-foot work features a verse from Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you took me in,” written in gold lettering in German, English, Arabic, and Turkish. In a statement issued to Artnet, Szymczyk said, “I see no way how this quote from the New Testament should be read as divisive or controversial. It is simply human. In the history of the square, the reference to the difficult condition of being a stranger—or being taken for one, which is one and the same thing—appears as early as in Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Campagne in Frankreich 1792.”

In July, the Nigerian-born American-based artist was awarded Documenta 14’s $10,000 Arnold-Bode Prize for the work. In a statement, the prize called the piece “an affirmation of the timeless, universal principles of attention and care towards all those affected by flight and persecution.” The city’s acquisition committee will decide whether to make the work a permanent addition to Kassel’s central Königsplatz on September 5.

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