An annual exhibition in the German city of Leipzig has set off a pitted debate—and nearly sparked its own cancelation—after organizers decided to include and then ultimately exclude the work of an artist with far-right sympathies. The painter Axel Krause has expressed views sympathetic to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, and criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies on refugees.
Krause’s work was originally scheduled to be included in the Leipzig Annual Exhibition, along with works by 36 other artists. But less than a week before the exhibition’s planned opening, under pressure from the show’s organizing association, the exhibition managers decided to remove him from the show. Then, a day later, they abruptly canceled the exhibition for fear the controversy surrounding Krause’s expulsion would be disruptive. Ultimately, they decided to go ahead with the show, which opened six days late, on June 12th—but without Krause’s work.
The string of decisions and reversals over Krause’s inclusion has set off debates within the German art community over the relationship between artists’ works and their political views. Eva-Maria Stange, a culture minister in Saxony, the state where Leipzig is located, and a member of the Social Democratic Party, told Leipziger Volkszeitung, according to The Art Newspaper:
It is not acceptable to stigmatise and socially exclude people because of their political stance. [. . .] The AfD is a democratically elected party. I can fully understand that people don’t share its views and reject it for good reason, but we live in a democracy, and that compels us to confront different positions.