Vandals Destroy Documenta Artwork by Jimmie Durham

Will vandalism cast a shadow on Documenta's 60th anniversary next week?

Jimmie Durham and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev plant the tree at Documenta 13 Photo: Nils Klinger via Monopol Magazin

Unknown vandals have destroyed two outdoor Documenta artworks in Kassel, Germany by Jimmie Durham and Heini Gut just days before the famous art festival’s 60th anniversary.

In 2011, Durham and Documenta 13 director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev planted a Corbinian apple tree in the city’s Karlsaue park. The rare Corbinian apple strain was bred by a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp as a seed of life, which eventually survived the Nazi oppression.

According to Art Magazinthe Musuem Hessen Kassel (MHK) said a gardener discovered the damage and reported that the artwork had been “extensively destroyed.” The tree was reportedly found completely uprooted with all its branches broken off.

The damaged artwork is set to be replaced with an identical tree in the fall.

Durham sourced the tree from Dachau concentration camp Photo: Roman Mensing via Vogue Italy

Durham sourced the tree from Dachau concentration camp.
Photo: Courtesy of Roman Mensing via Vogue Italy.

Whether the vandalism was an explicit expression against the art festival remains open to speculation, according to Documenta spokeswoman Henriette Gallus.

However, the ferocity and meticulousness of the tree’s destruction is an indication that the perpetrators were trying to make a point in association with the artwork.

Art Magazin reports, however, that police have ruled out the vandalism as an anti-Semitic attack, and are investigating the incident as an act of criminal damage.

On Wednesday it emerged that a second artwork in Kassel was vandalized. An outdoor artwork by Swiss artist Heini Gut, installed on a platform leading to the train station’s south wing, was damaged by unknown perpetrators.

The work was part of the show Werk / Kunst / Werk by the union of the metal and electro businesses on occasion of their 125 year anniversary.

Vandals bent and sawed off a part of Heini Gut's sculpture in Kassel. Photo: kassel-live.de

Vandals bent and sawed off a part of Heini Gut’s sculpture in Kassel.
Photo: via kassel-live.de.

The frame of the steel-and-wood floor sculpture was bent, and one of the letters comprising the work has been sawed off.

According to local police it’s unclear if the two incidents are linked.

Werk / Kunst / Werk project manager Achim Schnyder announced that all outdoor works at the train station site will remain publicly accessible around the clock. The work will not be repaired, however. “The artwork of Heini Gut will be left in its ruined state in order to document the way our city deals with visual arts,” Schnyder is quoted in the HNA.

Documenta 14 director Adam Szymczyk’s decision to relocate the opening of the festivals’s 2017 edition to Athens and away from Kassel provoked widespread criticism and outrage from Germany’s art scene, who are concerned that the move will compromise Kassel’s national and international appeal as a cultural destination.

Documenta's traditional home, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel Photo: Carroy via Wikimedia Commons

Documenta’s traditional home, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel.
Photo: Courtesy of  Carroy via Wikimedia Commons.

Meanwhile, local politicians and businesses fear that relocating the quinquennial will severely damage the small provincial city’s economy.


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