documenta the “Museum of 100 days”: Germany’s Quinquennial Contemporary Art Exhibition

Following on from the great interest in our recent post “Documenta 14 and the ‘Parthenon of Books’” here is a follow-up on the history of the exhibition.

documenta is one of Germany’s foremost contemporary art exhibitions and takes place every five years in Kassel. First taking place in 1955, the exhibition was founded by artist, teacher and curator Arnold Bode as part of the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Horticultural Show) which took place in Kassel at that time. documenta was an attempt to put Germany on the map with modern art, as well as an attempt to overthrow the anti-art culture of Nazism which had dessimated the German arts scene in previous decades.

The first documenta featured many artists who were generally considered to have had a significant influence on modern art (such as Picasso and Kandinsky). More recently, documenta exhibitions have featured art from all continents, although the art is almost always exclusively site-specific.

For the first time in its history, the 2017 “documenta 14” exhibition is being unveiled first in Athens (in April until 16 July), and then its home city of Kassel (10 June-17 September).

Documenta 14’s artistic director, Adam Szymczyk, acknowledged that he had faced “political and financial issues” by staging the show in two locations but that in Kassel, as in Athens, the exhibition’s aim is to provide marginalised artists with an unprecedented platform while challenging dominant political, economic and cultural systems.

Every documenta is limited to 100 days of exhibition, which is why it is often referred to as the “museum of 100 days”. The event rarely coincides with the three other major art world events: the Venice Biennale, Art Basel and Skulptur Projekte Münster. However, in 2017 all four are open simultaneously.

More information can be found at Documenta 14

Photo credit: Cindybeau (under Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0). Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Documenta 14.

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