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Testimonial 20: Cancellation of Anaïs Duplan's exhibition at Museum Folkwang

Artists respond to the Essen-based Museum Folkwang's cancellation of Anaïs Duplan's exhibition after Duplan spoke out in solidarity with Palestine and condemned Israel's relentless bombardment of Gaza.

Palestine Uncensored 4 March 2024

Testimonial 20: Cancellation of Anaïs Duplan's exhibition at Museum Folkwang

To the Board + Administration of the Museum Folkwang,

We write to you as concerned constituents of the international arts and culture community to express our alarm and outrage over the recent cancellation of the exhibition of Anaïs Duplan and his studio. The decision to cancel was taken because of the surveillance of social media, which is a break in professional norms. We strongly condemn the decision to cancel the exhibition, as well as the timing and circumstances surrounding it. This decision is utterly unacceptable according to the commonly understood expectations for agreements between artists and cultural institutions. Museum Folkwang’s actions constitute an infringement on freedom of speech (granted in Article 5 of the Grundgesetz) and signal a failure to uphold the purported values of Museum Folkwang. Indeed, they contradict its central principles set forth by Karl Ernst Osthaus: “dialogue of the arts and cultures, the museum as a place of exchange and cultural education, and the unity of art and life.” Internationally, cultural institutions have been canceling contracts with artists and curators, academic institutions are muzzling educators or outright terminating contracts with them, and across governments our representatives are censured or ousted for denouncing the mass killing of civilians in Gaza and for expressing solidarity with the people of Palestine in the face of unfathomably cruel state violence by Israel. Such censorship is tantamount to ideological repression, and actively participates in the systemic denial and enabling of war crimes. We demand better. Solidarity with the Palestinian people being killed and maimed in the tens of thousands and criticizing Israel's actions is not anti-Semitic – indeed anti-Zionist Jewish people are a driving force of our movement – and Germany's twisted assertion of dominance over of what is and isn't "anti-Semitic" will not change that.


On Germany’s Anti-Semitism Bureaucracy:

Germany’s anti-Semitism commissions, first founded in 2018, do not exist to encourage the flourishing of vibrant Jewish communities in Germany, let alone that of the other minorities victimized by the Holocaust.[1] These commissions exist to exert institutional control over the idea of what “the Jew” was and is in relation to Germany’s national identity: a hermetically sealed container for historical guilt. These commissions permit no imagination or futurisms for Jewish culture beyond their near annihilation at the hands of Nazi-Germany atoned for by the fulfillment of the Zionist movement to Palestine. They are therefore compelled to define anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

One convenient economic benefit is an ideological justification for the ruthless policing and surveillance of Germany’s BIPoC communities, especially Muslim and Arab. Germany’s BIPoC and Muslim communities are labeled as unwilling to assimilate and seen as a threat to the social order. This logic justifies these communities continued economic oppression and marginalization: They are framed as uncivilized, antisocial, backwards, and anti-Semitic while this same narrative conveniently glosses over the fact that now as historically, the vast majority of antisemitic attacks on Jews as well as other hate crimes is committed by rightwing Germans, not migrants.[2] 

Led exclusively by white German goyim, these anti-Semitism commissions and their attendant legislative authorities, such as the 2019 anti-BDS resolution referenced in Museum Folkwang’s termination of Anaïs Duplan’s exhibition, ban, censor and criminalize all critiques of Zionism and Israel in the name of Jewish security.[3] The logic of this criminalization extends even to Germany’s Jews.[4] Commissioner Klein has said so explicitly.[5] Those Jews who dare reject Zionism are thus labeled as “anti-Semites” by the children and grandchildren of Nazis.[6]

The reason Zionism is so integral to white German goy psychology is precisely because of their anti-Semitism: The Jew presents a problem that must be contained – the German state’s solution to this challenge is their full-throated backing of the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.[7] The censorship of cultural voices in solidarity with Palestine has long been a reality in Germany. The German cultural sector has responded to the events of October 7th, 2023, with a systemic acceleration of explicit censorship and cancellations. All of this is occurring alongside the criminalization of public political demonstrations in Germany, online harassment of outspoken artists, harassment against cultural workers in the German press, outright censorship, and canceled gigs for culture workers across Germany, some of whom have yet to go public for fear of further losses.[8]

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Proposals to the institutional policy: 

If the Museum Folkwang’s position is to prioritize the non-binding, unconstitutional and highly controversial BDS-resolution of the Bundestag over their own stated values and mission, it must rework the contract with artists to explicitly state as much. All new contracts must clearly state that:

  • Cancellations may happen specifically for certain political expressions found to be misaligned with those held by the German state
  • Alternatively, the Museum must commit to not penalizing artists and curators for perceived disparities between their priorities and those held by the German state and Museum
  • Additional remunerations must be paid for sudden or late cancellations to contracts. A contract clause outlining a process for terminating contracts must include a multi-part process in which discussions between the contracted parties take place and resolution of differences is pursued in advance of the threat of termination.
  • This statement must clearly illustrate the institutional alignment with the values and goals of the state of Germany
  • State publicly that they consider their reputation as bound up with the reputations and public image of the artists and curators they engage with. As such, any language on social media published by said collaborators reflects on the institution. As such, the museum will only contract with those collaborators whose public statements are in line with the values of the institution.

As artists – bellwethers particularly committed to feeling and elucidating these dynamics – we are sounding the alarm on the global white supremacist, colonialist, and fascistic forces that not only enact staggering systemic violence as a means of extracting and accumulating wealth but also seek to curate truth to align with this violence. Cultural institutions such as the Museum Folkwang play a significant role. At the best of times, their relationship to BIPoC artists historically has been one of extraction and tokenizing – in the case of Anaïs Duplan, profiting from the aesthetics of Afrofuturism while failing to substantively understand and support its philosophical, political, and historical demands. Far from supporting collective, intersectional calls for an end to the violence, many cultural institutions in the Global North are systematically repressing, silencing, and stigmatizing Palestinian voices and perspectives. This includes targeting and threatening the livelihoods of artists and arts workers who express solidarity with Palestinians, as well as canceling performances, screenings, talks, exhibitions, and book launches. Cultural producers are being silenced, canceled, terminated, censured, for speaking up, for bearing witness, testifying, documenting, archiving, amplifying… for essentially doing what we, by definition, and in practice are committed to doing.



The undersigned artists + cultural workers



The cultural venue Oyoun, in Berlin, whose staff is primarily made up of marginalized art workers and whose cultural output is centered in intersectional art and decolonial perspectives, recently had its funding cut for the year 2024 by the Berlin Senate for Culture.[9] This was done due to the Senate’s accusation of an alleged “hidden anti-Semitism" in an event hosted by the Jewish peace and human rights organization Jüdische Stimme für Gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for a just peace in the Middle East).[10] Poet Ranjit Hoskote resigned from the Selection Committee of the documenta after the documenta director and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture accused him of anti-Semitism, after which the remaining members of the Selection Committee all resigned in protest.[11] The Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, which was set to be the first edition with no European curators, was canceled due to criticism of the IOF’s campaign in Gaza in one of the co-curator's social media presences.[12] The cancellation was enacted by authorities from the three German host cities of the Photography Biennale – Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, and Heidelberg – who referred to the co-curator's social media posts as being anti-Semitic. The director of The 70th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Lars Henrik Gass, published a text on the official Facebook page of the festival which used dehumanizing language to describe the participants of Palestinian solidarity demonstrations. After which an open letter was published to denounce his actions and called for accountability to be taken by the festival.[13] The open letter included the signatures of Brett Kashmere and Astria Suparak, curators of the featured theme program for the festival. In response to their signage, their program was removed from the festival and their payment has been withheld.[14] The Frankfurt Book Fair “indefinitely postponed” an award ceremony for a Palestinian author Adania Shibli.[15] The Syrian-Palestinian poet Ghayath Almadhoun canceled the launch of an anthology of Arab poetry with Haus für Poesie, in Berlin, after they postponed the event in response to October 7th, inserted a BDS clause into the authors' contracts, and took editorial decisions that removed poems that spoke about Palestine.[16] The city of Bochum withdrew the award of the Peter Weiss Prize for Sharon Dodua Otoo, Black German-British author, for having co-signed a statement by Artists for Palestine UK, whom the Council of the City of Bochum defined as a “BDS Campaign”. The German public broadcaster ARD canceled the premiere of WAJIB by Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir.[17] The Berlin-based online music platform Hör cut off two DJs, DJ Sam Clarke and Téa, mid-set for wearing items of clothing that showed solidarity with Palestine.[18] The 7th Monologfestival in Berlin indefinitely postponed the performance of Mein bedrohliches Gedicht, which tells the autobiographical story of the imprisonment of the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour due to the interpretation of one of her poems by Israeli authorities.[19] Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin indefinitely postponed the long-running play The Situation written by Israeli-Austrian playwright Yael Ronen and involving a cast of Palestinian, Syrian, and Israeli actors.[20] Münchner Kunstakademie canceled an event with Nicolás Jaar after he criticized Israel and the United States on Instagram.[21] An exhibition of the Berlin-based photographer Raphaël Malik was canceled by the gallery Pixelgrain in Berlin due to its representation of Muslim life in Berlin “without a corresponding counterpoint” showing “Jewish life in Berlin”.[22] The Jewish-South African artist Candice Breitz has since had two events canceled: a conference focused on Germany’s culture of remembrance, canceled by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, and a video installation scheduled for 2024 at the Saarland Cultural Heritage Foundation, which cited the artist’s “controversial statements” as the reason for the cancellation and expressed their intent to not “offer a platform” to other artists with similar political positions.[23]

If you have a story to share, please send it to We are publishing testimonies from all over the world. To see the full collection of testimonials, check out the Palestine Uncensored series' main page.

 ← Read Testimonial 19 in our Palestine Uncensored series

[1] Kuras, Peter. “The Strange Logic of Germany’s Antisemitism Bureaucrats.” Jewish Currents, 18 July 2023

[2] Gehrke, Laurenz. “Germany Records Highest Level of Right-Wing Extremist Crimes in 20 Years.” Politico, 04 May 2021 and Yazdani, Kaveh. “A Double-Standard Lies Behind German Criticism of Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators.” openDemocracy, 11 June 2021.

[3] Bennhold, Katrin. “German Parliament Deems B.D.S. Movement Anti-Semitic.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 May 2019 and Mavuso, Zinzile. “Letter: Call to Replace Felix Klein as the Federal Government Commissioner for the Fight against Antisemitism.” Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, 8 June 2020.

[4] Florian. “Frankfurt: Ärger Wegen Israelkritischer Veranstaltung.” Frankfurter Rundschau, 2 June 2022.

[5] Roth-Rowland, Natasha. “Germany’s Anti-Palestinian Censorship Turns on Jews.” +972 Magazine, 4 Apr. 2023 and Hauenstein, Hanno. “Felix Klein: „Der BDS-Beschluss ist keine Eingriffsberechtigung in die Tätigkeit von Kulturinstitutionen".” Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für jüdisches Leben und den Kampf gegen Antisemitismus, 11 Jan. 2021.

[6] Jüdische Stimme. “Juedische Stimme: Open Letter: Supporting Human Rights Is Not Antisemitic.” Jüdische Stimme, 17 Jan. 2019 and Eddy, Melissa, and Isabel Kershner. “Jerusalem Criticizes Berlin’s Jewish Museum for ‘Anti-Israel Activity.’” The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2018.

[7] “Germany's unique relationship with Israel.” Deutsche Welle (DW), 15 Oct. 2023 and “Germany’s Unwavering Support for Israel: A Matter of State”, Byline Times, 07 Nov. 2023.

[8] “Jewish Artist’s Exhibition in Germany Canceled Over Her Controversial Statements on Gaza.” ArtAsiaPacific, 04 Dec 2023.

[9] “Crowdfunding-Kampagne: Save Oyoun. Protect Artistic Freedom · Oyoun: Kultur Neudenken.” Oyoun, 26 Nov. 2023

[10] Exberliner. “Oyoun Cultural Centre to Close after Berlin Cuts Funding.” Exberliner, 22 Nov. 2023

[11] Hoskote, Ranjit. “Documenta Resignation Letter - Notes - e-Flux.”, 13 Nov. 2023 and Njami, Simon, et al. “Documenta Resignation Letter - Notes - e-Flux.” E, 16 Nov. 2023.

[12] Artasiapacific. “Curators Respond to German Photo Biennale Cancellation.” Artasiapacific, 28 Nov. 2023.

[13] “Message to the International Film Community, Regarding a Recent Statement from the Director of Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen.” Internationalfilmcommunity.Noblogs.Org, 1 Nov. 2023.

[14] Kashmere, Brett, and Astria Suparak. “Statement Regarding the Cancellation of Our Theme Program for 2024 Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen.”, 20 Nov. 2023.

[15] Oltermann, Philip. “Palestinian Voices ‘shut down’ at Frankfurt Book Fair, Say Authors.” The Guardian, 15 Oct. 2023.

[16] “After Postponed Launch of Arabic Poetry Anthology in Berlin, Editor Pulls Back.” Arablit & Arablit Quarterly, 25 Oct. 2023.

[17] Goodfellow, Melanie. “German TV Network ARD Accused of Censorship for Shelving Broadcast of Palestinian Director Annemarie Jacir’s Feature ‘Wajib’ Due to Israel-Hamas Conflict.” Deadline, 16 Nov. 2023

[18] LeJarde, Arielle Lana. “Hör Issues Statement Following Online Backlash and Calls for Boycott · News ⟋ RA.” Resident Advisor, 6 Nov. 2023 

[19] “Die Aufführungen von „Mein bedrohliches Gedicht“ im Rahmen des Monologfestivals sind abgesagt.” TD Berlin, Monologfestival 2023, 9 Nov. 2023.




[23] and

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