The Freedom Party (FPÖ) run city council decided by a majority vote on Friday that the “temporary” installation should be removed – but the local Greens and Socialist Party are not happy.
The works were commissioned by the city in 2008 from German artist Jochen Gerz, who worked in collaboration with local historians.
Installed in 2010, the boards are billboard-sized and feature historical photos with accompanying text that detail acts of Nazi terror at site-specific points around Graz.
Graz City Councillor Mario Eustacchio (FPÖ), in charge of streets and roads in the Styrian city, is overseeing the removal of the works on Friday.
He told The Local that he is simply acting according to the formal legal requirements of the City of Graz, and is not himself opposed to Gerz’s work.
Lisa Rücker, Graz City Councillor for the Greens party, told The Local that the Greens are opposed to the removal of this art project.
“Yes – it was a project that had a specific date when it should be taken down, but it was extended four times, and this fifth time it has been denied.
The material is not durable in the long term and it was not made to last forever, but we thought the best alternative was to wait until the end of next year and find a fitting and proper end for this installation.
Unlike other works of art, there are always arguments about this sort of installation in open spaces, but the role of Graz in 1938 was tragic and we have a special responsibility in Graz to continue this discussion,” she said.
Rücker also noted that from her experience on the council, the mayor could very easily have overruled this decision, but chose not to.
Helmut Konrad, historian and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Graz, was one of the experts who worked with Gerz on the boards.
“It’s a real political decision and disappointing to see. It’s hard to understand why the mayor doesn’t listen to the hundreds and hundreds of voices around him,” he told The Local.
“If there was at least a political discussion about a different way to tell these stories that would be something, but other art installations intended as ‘temporary’ art works, for example the Rusty Nail in the city park and the Kafka-inspired statue outside the Graz Opera House, are still in place around the city after ten or 20 years!”
Raimund Fastenbauer, General Secretary for Jewish Affairs at the Israeli Cultural Society in Vienna, told The Local that he was very surprised by the decision.
“This is an action going in the wrong direction. If anything, there should be more works of this kind.”
Fastenbauer went on to say that he has detected an increase in anti-Semitism in Austria, but was still very surprised at the news because he had never heard any voices against this installation.