documenta gGmbH

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.

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 – including documenta 14 – 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.


Photo © Nils Klinger

The Fridericianum was founded in 1779 as one of the first public museums in the world. Since 1988 it has been an internationally renowned art gallery. A broad spectrum of contemporary art, from new discoveries to more established works, is displayed in over 2,000 square meters of exhibition space. Moritz Wesseler has been director of the Fridericianum since November 2018, following Veit Loers (1987–1995), René Block (1997–2006), Rein Wolfs (2008–2013) and Susanne Pfeffer (2013–2017). His program focuses on artists who have not yet been offered an institutional platform in Germany as well as historical works worthy of rediscovery. The program kicked off in June 2019 with solo presentations by Lucas Arruda and Ron Nagle. These were followed in October 2019 by a comprehensive exhibition of the work of Rachel Rose and in February 2020 by the first and largest European retrospective in over thirty years on the life and work of Forrest Bess.

The exhibitions are accompanied by an extensive education and mediation program, the content of which is closely related to each show. These programs are individually tailored for different age and interest groups and appeal to both a wide audience and art professionals.

Alongside this programming, a multifaceted lineup of events makes the Fridericianum a lively place of exchange on contemporary cultural production. As part of the “FF – Live at the Fridericianum” series, the museum regularly invites international artists to create live events using varied formats, including talks, performances, and film screenings.

documenta archive / Institute

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.

The documenta Institute is being developed in a cooperation between the State of Hesse, the City of Kassel, documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH and the University of Kassel with Kunsthochschule Kassel with financial support for the building project from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The acclaimed sociologist Prof. Dr. Heinz Bude was appointed Founding Director of the documenta Institute.

The starting point for the documenta Institute is the holdings of the documenta archiv, which is being developed into an extramural research institute. The documenta archiv was founded in 1961 by Arnold Bode and is dedicated to the archiving, documentation and scholarly processing of text and image sources on modern and contemporary art, in particular the documenta exhibitions that have taken place since 1955. In addition to the documenta documents, the holdings include extensive press, image and audiovisual media collections, a unique art library and relevant bequests and estates.

The documenta Institute will initially be founded under the umbrella of documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH and is intended to act in a cross-disciplinary manner to stimulate, conduct and further develop research related to the international exhibition business and documenta and to promote its public exposure.

documenta Halle

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

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.