Israeli Artist Bracha L. Ettinger Resigns from Documenta 16 Selection Committee

The six-person committee charged with selecting an artistic director for Documenta 16, the 2027 edition of one of the world’s biggest art festivals, lost a member last week.

According to Der Spiegel, Israeli artist, philosopher, and psychoanalyst Bracha L. Ettinger has resigned from the committee, not in response to the controversy surrounding another member accused of signing a letter that Documenta called “anti-Semitic,” but because of what she called the “dark times” impacting her home country.

Ettinger, who is based in Tel Aviv, had reportedly found it difficult to attend the committee’s meetings following the October 7 Hamas attack, which killed 1,400 Israelis and involved the taking of more than 200 hostages.

With Israel continuing to lead airstrikes and execute a ground invasion on Gaza, killing 11,000 Palestinians so far, according to the local health ministry, Ettinger could not travel to confer with the other members, and asked to have a meeting delayed. They could not do so, according to Der Spiegel, for “procedural reasons.”

“The future Documenta has been constantly on my mind for the last seven months,” she reportedly wrote in a resignation letter. “We all worked hard. Unfortunately, today I have the feeling that I can no longer contribute to this process.”

She also addressed the conflict itself, writing, “Innocent civilians suffered and died, and my heart weeps for every death on all sides. Every life is precious.”

A Documenta spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ettinger’s resignation was reportedly tendered on Friday, the same day that Documenta released a statement denouncing Ranjit Hoskote, an Indian poet and critic who is also on the committee. A Suddeutsche Zeitung report revealed that in 2019, Hoskote had signed a letter by the Indian division of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, a movement that advocates for the rights and liberation of Palestinians. The letter compared Zionism in Israel to Hindu nationalism in India.

Documenta head Andreas Hoffmann called the letter “anti-Semitic” and said that Hoskote and the other members had stated they had no connections to BDS prior to joining the committee. Claudia Roth, Germany’s culture minister, condemned Hoskote, claimed the letter was “full of anti-Israel conspiracy theories,” and threatened to pull funding from Documenta, which was decried by many powerful German politicians in 2022 as the show faced widespread allegations of antisemitism.

Hoskote, in a comment to Monopol, rebutted the claims that he was antisemitic, saying, “The point of view taken here is formulated from a narrow Eurocentric position: we in the global south are almost condescendingly advised to familiarize ourselves better with the German situation.” He added that the Suddeutsche Zeitung had failed to acknowledge his studies of Jews in India.

Ettinger told Der Spiegel that she had not quit the committee in response to the scrutiny over Hoskote and declined to comment further.

In addition to Hoskote, the selection committee also has four other members: curators María Inés Rodríguez, Simon Njami, Kathrin Rhomberg, and Gong Yan. When the committee was announced earlier this year, the committee said it would announce an artistic director by early 2024.