documenta in Kassel opens for trade visitors

art show
documenta in Kassel opens for trade visitors

documenta fifteen

Today the so-called preview days of the documenta begin in Kassel. Photo: Swen Pförtner/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

Artist collectives instead of big names, a shared rice barn as a leitmotif, anti-Semitism accusations in advance. documenta fifteen promises to be different from its predecessors.

With the documenta fifteen, Kassel once again transformed itself into an important center of the art world.

Today the so-called preview days of the most important presentation of contemporary art after the Venice Biennale begin in the northern Hessian city. Trade visitors and journalists have three days to explore the show before it officially opens for 100 days on Saturday.

The documenta takes place every five years. The 15th edition was designed by the Indonesian artist collective Ruangrupa. The group wants to focus on Indonesian lumbung architecture. In the island state, “lumbung” is the word for a communal rice barn in which the excess harvest is stored for the benefit of the community. Ruangrupa wants to transfer this tradition of sharing to the world art exhibition in Kassel.

Thousands of journalists and trade visitors

More than a thousand journalists are expected to attend a press conference at 11 a.m. this Wednesday to mark the start of documenta fifteen. According to the organizers, more than 7,000 trade visitors from all over the world have announced their attendance. The exhibition is accessible from 10 a.m. 14 collectives, organizations and institutions as well as 54 artists present their works at 32 locations.

Instead of big-name stars, Ruangrupa relies primarily on collectives and organizations from all over the world. Among the participants are a Danish organization that supports refugees with legal advice and language courses, a group from Bangladesh that tries to avoid waste, and beekeepers from Kassel.

What will be seen? A lot of “lumbung”, announced documenta general director Sabine Schormann recently. Visitors can expect a diverse, experimental show based on collective processes. “You will be able to experience documenta fifteen as a sensual exhibition visit with – among other things – painting, installations, films or even music and performance.”

Allegations of anti-Semitism overshadow the start

documenta fifteen is overshadowed by an anti-Semitism debate. At the beginning of the year, an alliance accused Ruangrupa of including organizations that supported the cultural boycott of Israel or were anti-Semitic in the show. Ruangrupa and the documenta firmly rejected the allegations. Later, the Central Council of Jews in Germany also got involved. A series of discussions intended to calm people down has been cancelled. Since then, those involved, including Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth, have been struggling to find a balance between “anti-Semitism has no place at documenta”, “artistic freedom is a central point” and “origin alone cannot determine what is shown and what is not”.

The debate apparently does not detract from visitor interest: according to the documenta, 54,000 tickets have already been sold in advance. The day ticket costs 27 euros. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Hesse’s Prime Minister Boris Rhein and the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, Arif Havas Oegroseno, have announced their attendance at the opening on Saturday. documenta fifteen is open until September 25th.


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