Documenta sparks “censorship” row: Work by Gregor Schneider withdrawn

Fears that the artist's installation would be associated with the fair led to intervention


The German artist Gregor Schneider says that the organisers of Documenta have “censored” a work he planned to install in the Karlskirche church in Kassel, home of the quinquennial exhibition (until 16 September). Schneider says that It’s all Rheydt Kolkata, Kassel 2012, consisting of material dredged from the river Ganges in northern India, was withdrawn after Bernd Leifeld, the managing director of Documenta, intervened.

Schneider was given €70,000 by the Protestant Academy of Hofgeismar to make the piece. The Art Newspaper understands that Leifeld expressed concerns that visitors could mistake the installation for a Documenta project, and that any mix-up could have damaged the reputation of the prestigious German exhibition. Representatives of the academy declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Documenta says that Leifeld “heard some time ago that the church was planning an exhibition during Documenta, though no one was aware which artist the church had in mind. After consulting the church, [its officials] decided to concentrate on seminars and lectures [instead].”

Meanwhile, the German sculptor Stephan Balkenhol has installed an outsized human figure with outstretched arms in the bell tower of a Catholic church in Kassel despite opposition from Documenta’s management. He reportedly accuses Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev of “curtailing” cultural events in Kassel, but the exhibition’s artistic director says that she “would never [censor art]”. The German artist Siglinde Kallnbach has launched a campaign in support of Balkenhol and Schneider.