The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, US, has lashed out at the right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD) for using the 1866 painting “Slave Market” by Jean-Leon Gerome for posters of their European election campaign. The work of art, kept in the US museum and depicting a Muslim-looking dark-skinned slave trader with a lighter-skinned, apparently enslaved, young woman, appeared in Berlin’s streets with the captions "Europeans vote AfD!" and "So Europe doesn't become Eurabia!"
"We strongly condemn the use of the painting to advance AfD's political stance and have written them insisting that they cease and desist from using this painting”, museum director Olivier Meslay stated, adding the Clark institute owns the work of art and “did not supply this image to the AfD Berlin”.
However, he also admitted that "there are no copyrights or permissions that allow us to exert control over how it is used other than to appeal to civility on the part of AfD Berlin”, Meslay noted, as cited by the German outlet Deutsche Welle.
Spokesman for Berlin’s AfD branch Ronald Glaeser has blasted the demand as “a futile attempt to gag the AfD”.
“The German public has the right to find out about the truth about the possible consequences of illegal mass immigration”, he said, also complaining about vandals destroying this and other posters time and time again.
His fellow party members have had to repeatedly replace the posters or get creative, mending them with stickers reading “Those who have no arguments, destroy posters”.
The “Slave Market” is only one of several classical pictures being used in the "Learning from Europe's history" campaign ahead of the European elections, outlining the party’s hard-line stance on immigration policy, global warming, and the EU. The AfD was elected to the German parliament with calls to restrict refugees.
The country’s migration policy has long been a source of discord in Germany, with tensions peaking a year ago. Last year, protests against Angela Merkel’s refugee policy shook several towns. They were prompted by acts of violence, including gang rape and murder, allegedly perpetrated by migrants.