The Saarlandmuseum in Saarbrücken, Germany, has cancelled an exhibition of work by Candice Breitz, saying it would not show the art of any artist “who does not clearly recognise Hamas’s terror as a rupture of civilisation”.
It was not clear from a statement issued by the Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz what comments Breitz had made that prompted the decision, which was taken in consultation with Jewish community representatives in the state of Saarland.
Breitz, who is Jewish, said she was not consulted about the decision beforehand and still has received no explanation. She said via email that she has “condemned Hamas loudly and unequivocally on a number of occasions, many of which are well-documented,” and added that the “level of German self-righteousness is beyond absurd.”
“In most democratic cultures, those who are deemed guilty are given the chance to speak and defend themselves before they are condemned and de-platformed,” she said. “But the climate in Germany at present is such that many Germans feel absolutely justified in violently condemning Jewish positions that are not consistent with their own.”
The Saarlandmuseum’s decision is the latest in a series of disruptions to German exhibition plans since Hamas’s terror attacks on Israel on 7 October and the Israeli reprisals in Gaza. The Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, a contemporary photo exhibition, which was due to be held in Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg in March 2024, was cancelled last week after one of the curators posted content on social media that the cities’ authorities described as antisemitic.
Plans for the next Documenta, the vast contemporary art show that takes place in Kassel every five years, are in disarray after the finding committee responsible for selecting the next artistic director resigned en masse.
Four of the panel members said in their resignation letter that they did not see “appropriate conditions” for “diverse perspectives, perceptions and discourses” in Germany after the forced withdrawal of their fellow panel member, Ranjit Hoskoté. Hoskoté left the panel amid pressure from German media and the government over a statement he had signed in 2019 that they viewed as antisemitic.
“A wide spectrum of activists, artists and other cultural workers are being tarred and feathered in great haste and with McCarthyist zeal,” Breitz said. “I may carry the dubious distinction of being the first Jewish artist to be de-platformed and defunded by Germany, but I am not the first Jew to be impacted.”
Breitz said she had posted the following statement on her Instagram account: “It’s possible to reserve deep empathy for the brutally violated and murdered civilians of Israel, while holding zero regard for Netanyahu and his cynical henchmen (some of whom proudly describe themselves as racists and homophobes); politicians who casually break humanitarian law, cheer on illegal occupation and are now leading the inhumane and grotesque bombardment of Gaza.”
“It’s likewise possible to support the Palestinian struggle for basic rights and human dignity—including liberation from decades of oppression—while unequivocally condemning the horrific carnage exacted on 7 October, and the cruel stranglehold that Hamas exerts on Gazan civilians (to the advantage of Israel’s sadist leaders). Hamas is not Palestine.”
Hamas killed around 1,200 Israelis in its terror attacks on 7 October. More than 13,000 people have been reported killed in Gaza in the Israeli attack that followed. Israel and Hamas have extended a four-day ceasefire to six days to enable further exchanges of Israeli hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.