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Documenta Obelisk to Remain in Kassel after Months of Uncertainty

The fifty-three-foot concrete obelisk made by artist Olu Oguibe and titled Monument to Strangers and Refugees, 2017, will stay in Kassel, following months of uncertainty and rising pressure from far-right politicians who sought to remove the pro-refugee work. The obelisk, installed in the city’s Königsplatz during last year’s Documenta and inscribed with the Bible verse “I was a stranger and you took me in” in four languages, was uninstalled on the morning of October 3 and had previously been vandalized and deemed “deformed art” by an AfD politician. The work, purchased by Kassel earlier this year with money raised through a crowdfunding campaign, will be reinstalled in the city’s Treppenstraße pedestrian zone. While Oguibe had originally agreed to sell the sculpture for $750,000, he later settled on a discounted price of $150,000.

In a public statement, Oguibe elaborated on the work’s site-specificity: “The height of the sculpture, the color of the material, the decision to include a platform on which commuters could sit while waiting for the tram or to meet with friends, and even the size and gilding of the text which was intended to make it legible from the farthest points on the square. That is beside the fact that it was also meant to stand on a square where all the people of Kassel regularly come together or cross paths. All that was taken from us.”

Oguibe continued: “There was no way that I could possibly agree with, or approve of, or be party to the removal of the obelisk from the Königsplatz, and it is my hope that the ugly event of October 3 will give Kassel’s leaders cause to revisit the violence that they’ve repeatedly done to artists’ works and visions, and finally put in place a decent policy to avoid such violence in the future.”