documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH is a non-profit organization supported and funded by the City of Kassel and the State of Hesse, as well as by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. documenta 14 will open in April 2017 in Athens, and in June 2017 in Kassel.
In 1955, the Kassel painter and academy professor Arnold Bode endeavored to bring Germany back into dialogue with the rest of the world after the end of World War II, and to connect the international art scene through a “presentation of twentieth century art.”
He founded the “Society of Western Art of the 20th Century” in order to present art that had been deemed by the Nazis as degenerate as well as works from classical modernity that had never been seen in Germany in the destroyed Museum Fridericianum.
The first documenta was a retrospective of works from major movements (Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, the Blaue Reiter, Futurism) and brilliant individualists such as Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, and Henry Moore. In this journey through the art of the first fifty years of the century, German founders of modern art such as Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, or Max Beckmann were presented alongside classics of modernism.
An enormous hunger to compensate for the lack of information about international tendencies in art motivated 130,000 visitors to come to Kassel for the exhibition, which acted as both a survey and a forum for contemporary art.
Encouraged by this unexpected success, Bode planned a second exhibition in 1959, thus establishing the exhibition cycle of documenta. Since 1959, the exhibition has been organized by a limited liability company with the City of Kassel and State of Hesse as shareholders.
Arnold Bode led the exhibition up until documenta 4 in 1968, in cooperation with such renowned art historians such as Werner Haftmann, Will Grohmann, Werner Schmalenbach, and Max Imdahl. documenta increasingly became a seismograph of developments in contemporary art.
A new format for the exhibition’s organization started in 1972, with Harald Szeemann appointed as “Secretary General.” On behalf of the board of documenta gGmbH, an international jury is assembled to appoint the Artistic Director for each exhibition. In 1997, Catherine David became the first woman to direct documenta.
Each documenta takes its character from the ideas and concept of its Artistic Director, and is therefore not only a forum for current trends in contemporary art, but a place where innovative and standards-setting exhibition concepts are trialed. In each edition, documenta has played a leading role in taking the international discourse about art in new directions. Over the past decades, documenta has established itself as an institution that goes far beyond a survey of what is currently happening, inviting the attention of the international art world every five years for this "museum of 100 days." The discourse and the dynamics of the discussion surrounding each documenta reflects and challenges the expectations of society about art.
The documenta Archive was founded by the City of Kassel on the initiative of Arnold Bode in 1961. Today, the Archive houses a library on the art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and maintains a collection of valuable documents, photographs, and correspondence relating to all previous documenta exhibitions, extensive press documentation, and a progressively growing media archive. The legacies of Arnold Bode, Hans Hillmann, and Harry Kramer, as well as the archival material bequeathed by Floris M. Neusüss, are now held at the documenta Archive.
The documenta Archive will be officially entrusted to the documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH in a symbolic ceremony on July 15, 2015. The goal is to enhance the international significance of this unique institution and to develop it into a documenta Institute in cooperation with the University of Kassel over the course of the years to come.
documenta Hall is the exhibition and event center located at Friedrichsplatz in Kassel. The building was designed and realized by the architecture firm of Jourdan & Müller (PAS) in 1992. It is now owned by the State of Hessen and managed by the documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH.
The hall offers 1,400 m² of exhibition space and about 700 m² of additional space for offices, a depository, and a dining area. It is made available for use by the organizers of each documenta exhibition every five years. At other times, documenta Hall is used for events of all kinds—from congresses and conferences to presentations and lectures to evening events and activities.
International Friends of documenta is a group composed of patrons of art in the traditional sense. It brings together people from all over the world who are devoted to promoting contemporary art at the international level and realizing the objectives and values of documenta. Their efforts are focused on supporting and assisting the artistic directors who radically redefine and realize each successive exhibition.
International Friends of documenta regards itself as a supporting network whose members meet regularly on various occasions and follow the progress of planning for each upcoming documenta exhibition. Members are invited to participate by the documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH.