Indonesian curators of documenta top art scene list despite anti-Semitism row


British publication 'ArtReview' praised Indonesia collective ruangrupa's 'open-source approach to artmaking,' which had broken 'with old models by creating a sprawling exhibition (at Germany's documenta) that highlighted collective rather than individual practise.' Photo: Ruangrupa

The British art magazine ArtReview has crowned the curators of this year's documenta fifteen art exhibition in Germany "the most influential people in art" in its annual Power 100 ranking, despite a scandal over alleged anti-Semitism surrounding the show.

The Indonesian curatorial collective ruangrupa tops the list ahead of the artistic director of this year's Venice Biennale, Cecilia Alemani.

For the 21st edition of the ranking, ArtReview looked for artists or movements that were active over the past 12 months, whose work "is shaping current developments in art" and has a global rather than a local impact.

Ruangrupa curated documenta fifteen, this year's edition of the hugely influential exhibition of international contemporary art held in the German city of Kassel once every five years.

As part of their approach, the collective extended invitations to other groups to join with their projects, and asked them in turn to invite further artists and collectives.

The show has been overshadowed by accusations that it includes art with clear anti-Semitic symbols and motifs. Ruangrupa also faced accusations of anti-Semitism over the inclusion of artists and groups that support a cultural boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

ArtReview nevertheless praised what it called the collective's "open-source approach to artmaking," which had broken "with old models by creating a sprawling exhibition that highlighted collective rather than individual practise."

This was the first time that the show was curated not by an individual but by a group, and the first time in the event's 67-year history that the curators came from Asia, according to the magazine.

Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the event, ArtReview said: "Documenta’s hierarchy may not have anticipated that ruangrupa’s decentred, distributed way of doing things would have caused such instability."

"If any lesson might be learned from ruangrupa’s great experiment with Documenta, it is that you can’t, as a powerful, hierarchical organisation, pretend to value delegation, collaboration and devolution of power only to be surprised when events no longer stay under your control."

"Ruangrupa's Documenta has tested the institutional norms of the European art world, putting into question its ability to adapt to non-European ideas and working practices," the magazine wrote.

ArtReview first published its prestigious ranking in 2002. – dpa

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