Leading Berlin Art Museum’s Board Member Departs Amid Scrutiny Over Social Media Posts About Israel - The World News

Leading Berlin Art Museum’s Board Member Departs Amid Scrutiny Over Social Media Posts About Israel

The KW Institute for Contemporary Art, a closely watched museum that organizes the Berlin Biennale, has lost one of the executive members of its board amid scrutiny over his social media posts about Israel.

Axel Wallrabenstein, who joined the executive board in September of last year, has since departed that post, ARTnews has learned. His departure appears to have happened sometime since the KW Institute posted to Instagram that it was investigating an unnamed board member for their social media posts on February 14.

“The use of derogatory language, any form of harassment, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, transphobia, ableism, queerphobia, classism and any other form of discrimination and derogatory behavior will not be tolerated at KW, nor will incitement to hatred, violence, bullying or negative stereotyping of individuals or groups of people,” the statement, posted as a temporary Instagram Story that is no longer available, read.

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Portrait Zasha Colah.

It continued, “KW distances itself from the behavior and exchange on Social Media of one of its Board Members with other parties. The institution is investigating further steps.”

Wallrabenstein declined to comment on his departure. A KW spokesperson did not respond to request for comment.

Since mid-February, Wallrabenstein’s name was dropped from the list of three executive board members, who serve as leaders of its roughly 20-person board, on the institution’s site. He has been replaced by Katharina Kurz, who was formerly a board member.

And since mid-December, the KW has also lost two other board members: artist Adam Pendleton and collector Pedro Barbosa. The reasons for their departures remain unclear. Neither Pendleton nor Barbosa responded to requests for comment.

On X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, Wallrabenstein had drawn scrutiny for his posts about Israel and the war in Gaza.

In one tweet from February, he asked, “Why are there over 400 mosques in Israel and hardly a synagogue left in Arab countries? Questions upon questions…”

In another tweet posted around the same time, he responded to a video that appeared to depict Israeli soldiers detaining Palestinians in Ramallah and raiding a building. He replied with a heart-eyes emoji and Israeli flag.

Alongside his involvement in the KW, Wallrabenstein also sat on the board of the Berlin Biennale, which the institutions helps facilitate.

His departure comes as many German art institutions face increased tensions spurred on by the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages, and by Israel’s repeated airstrikes in Gaza, which have killed more than 30,000 people there, according to the local health ministry.

Exhibitions have been canceled, job posts have been voided, and artists have committed to a boycott known as Strike Germany, which encourages artists not to exhibit within the country. The KW was itself one of the museums impacted by Strike Germany—two artists in its current show “Poetics of Encryption: Art and the Technocene,” American Artist and Morehshin Allahyari, dropped out in solidarity with the boycott.

Within Berlin, the KW is well-known for its contemporary art exhibitions and for hosting the Berlin Biennale. In the past couple years, the museum has hosted surveys for artists such as David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, Beatriz González, Coco Fusco, Leonilson, Renée Green, and more.

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