The Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich has sparked a heated debate by altering the title of an August Macke painting from 1911, which portrays Native Americans. Originally named “Indians on Horseback Near a Tent,” the museum has now revised the title to obscure the term “Indians” with asterisks, rendering it as “I******” in both English and German presentations.

This decision has ignited controversy across Germany, with critics accusing the museum of succumbing to “woke madness.” The alteration has been particularly contentious among conservative circles, with Bild, a prominent right-wing publication, leading the charge in criticizing the museum’s choice.

Manuel Pretzl of the Christian Social Union voiced concerns to Bild, arguing against the modification of historical works to align with contemporary sensibilities, suggesting it verges on censorship of an artist who is no longer alive to respond.

In defense, the Lenbachhaus Museum released a comprehensive statement denying any act of censorship. The museum asserted its duty to critically examine the art of the Blue Rider movement, of which Macke was a significant figure, within its historical context. It acknowledged that historical language and imagery might carry derogatory or racist connotations today.

The museum explained its decision to alter the title as an effort to be considerate towards its diverse audience, aiming to avoid immediate offense while still allowing the original term to be identifiable. They emphasized that the full term is used in supplementary texts where it is critically examined.

August Macke, associated with the Der Blaue Reiter avant-garde movement, did not personally title the controversial painting. Instead, it was named by its former owner, Bernhard Köhler. The term “Indians,” once commonly used to refer to Native Americans, has grown increasingly viewed as pejorative and racist by today’s standards.

The painting in question, depicting figures on horseback near a teepee, adorned with headdresses, is not among Macke’s most celebrated works. Yet, it highlights the artist’s engagement with Native American imagery, which art historian Marie Watkins has critiqued for its romanticized and stereotypical portrayal, suggesting Macke’s misinterpretation of Native American society.

This incident at the Lenbachhaus Museum underscores the ongoing dialogue about how historical artworks are presented and interpreted in modern times, balancing respect for cultural sensitivities with the integrity of historical context.

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