Olu Oguibe’s Monument to Refugees Re-Installed in Kassel
Monument to Strangers and Refugees (2017), a public sculpture by American-based Nigerian artist, Olu Oguibe, constructed for Documenta 14 in Kassel, has been reinstalled in the city. The monumental sculpture had previously been deinstalled and dismantled after it became a lightning rod for both pro- and anti-refugee sentiments in the German city.
Originally positioned in Königsplatz, the city’s central square, the 17-metre-tall obelisk has now been installed on the nearby but less conspicuous Trappenstrasse as part of a compromise agreement between the artist and the city. Inscribed with a biblical phrase – ‘I was a stranger and you took me in’ – the sculpture became the subject of a debate around the civic function, political impact and commercial value of contemporary art when the local government announced in 2018 that it intended permanently to acquire the sculpture using money raised through a crowdfunding campaign. The decision met with resistance from, among others, representatives of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD): in an echo of previous right-wing dismissals of art, AfD member Thomas Materner called the work ‘disfiguring’.
A street party to celebrate the reinstallation of the work will be held in Kassel on May 11.
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