documenta IX
13 June – 20 September 1992

Artistic Director

Jan Hoet


Museum Fridericianum, documenta-Halle, Neue Galerie, Ottoneum, Orangerie, Kassel city centre, temporary pavillons at Karlsaue






18.645.501 DM

Jan Hoet (1992)
Photo: Dirk Bleicker

Documenta 9 is remembered as one of the most popular of all documenta exhibitions, thanks not least of all to the influence of its artistic director, Jan Hoet. The charismatic Belgian curator succeeded in conveying his love of art and his enthusiasm for documenta with maximum media effect. And in the process, he communicated programmatic principles that touched even those less well versed in matters of art immediately. Hoet wanted to make the human being and our sensual, perceptual, agonized corporeality, which had been progressively displaced by the digitized, virtual world, the focus of attention at his exhibition. “From body to body to bodies” was the meaningful, poetic motto of documenta 9. Hoet described his curatorial mission in the following words: “At a time in which the human race is confronted more than ever with such dangers as AIDS and multinational wars, nuclear catastrophes, and global climate disasters, at a time in which threats are growing increasingly abstract and the fears more and more diffuse, I see reflection on the physical conditions of life as an appropriate answer.” Hoet wanted to find that answer not only in cooperation with his prominent curatorial team, composed of Bart de Baere, Pier Luigi Tazzi, and Denys Zacharopoulos, but also—and this was a new twist—through close collaboration with the artists. Discussion within the context of this nonhierarchical cooperative effort revolved above all around the position of the respective works of art and the resulting dialogue between settings and works. As Barbara Heinrich wrote in that regard, “The artists were involved in the process of creating the exhibition from the outset.” Another novel outgrowth of this documenta was criticism of its Western “Eurocentrism.” By then, toward the end of the twentieth century, significant segments of the population had finally become aware that very interesting art was being produced in Asia and the Third World as well.

In his introduction to the catalogue, Hoet wrote that the ninth documenta was a “documenta of locations; their topography is the framework that holds everything together.” By virtue of its own unique atmosphere, each location represented a specific theme—the Fridericianum, for example, was defined as a “place of history, enlightenment, and cultural potency, a place of drama.” In the Zwehrenturm at the Fridericianum, Hoet established a “collective memory” of documenta 9 featuring works by Jacques-Louis David, James Ensor, Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Joseph Beuys, Barnett Newman, and James Lee Byars on loan from museums and, in doing so, presented a genealogy similar to that of the first documenta—albeit not in accordance with systematic art-historical categories, but focused instead on the role of these artists as “representatives of revolutionary works.”

Bruce Naumann, Anthro / Socio (1991)
Photo: Dirk Bleicker

Exhibited in the lobby of the Museum Fridericianum, Bruce Nauman’s video installation entitled Anthro/Socio (1992) served practically as a leitmotif for documenta 9. A man—or a bald man’s head, to be exact—revolves around himself, multiplied sixfold on monitors stacked in a column, isolated from his environment, calling for help: The words “Help me, hurt me, Sociology, feed me, eat me, Anthropology” were recited on the endless-loop sound track. The opposing word pairs of “help” and “hurt,” “feed” and “eat,” spoken by the man emphasize the captivity of the human being within unresolvable existential conflicts. The Austrian artist Peter Kogler installed his wallpaper Ants (1992) in the same room. The technically generated, endlessly reproduced images of huge ants charged the room with a threatening atmosphere. Ilya Kabakov erected an accessible outhouse in the courtyard behind the Fridericianum: Die Toilette (1992) was a hybrid consisting of a typical Russian two-room apartment and a public toilet. The proverbial “live-in toilet” had become a reality and, as a sculptural installation, addressed the theme of (a)social living conditions in the field of tension between private and public in “existing real-socialist states.”

Lothar Baumgarten Entenschlaf [Der große Metaphysiker] (1991-1992) © Lothar Baumgarten/VG Bild-Kunst
Photo: Rene Pötzscher

Joseph Kosuth, Passagen-Werk (documenta-Flânerie) (1992)
Foto: Dieter Schwerdtle

Tadashi Kawamata, Destroyed Church Project (1987)
Photo: Frank Mihm © documenta Archiv

Tadashi Kawamata, People's Garden (1992)
Photo: Kurt-Willi Julius

Cildo Meireles, Fontes (1992)
Photo: D. Pauwels © documenta Archiv

Jonathan Borofsky, Man Walking to the Sky (1991-92)
Photo: Dirk Bleicker

Robbrecht en Daem, Temporärer Bauten documenta 9 (1992)
Photo: Ellen Markgraf

David Hammons, Untitled (1992)
Photo: Werner Maschmann

The outdoor area as a “setting for walks and mental excursions” announced its presence from a distance. Jonathan Borofsky’s Man Walking to the Sky (1992) on Friedrichsplatz rose some fifteen meters toward the heavens. “Himmelsstürmer” (Man Reaching for the Heavens) was the name given by the people of Kassel to this man who appears to be climbing resolutely up a twenty-five-meter-long steel tube inclined at an angle of sixtythree degrees, as he and his body appear to overcome all natural limitations. The sculpture was so popular at the time that it was purchased by the city with the support of donations. It stands today on the square in front of the main railway station. Other works that remain in Kassel include Thomas Schütte’s Die Fremden (The Strangers, 1992), a ceramic sculptural ensemble on the projecting roof of the Roter Palais, Per Kirkeby’s Raumskulptur (Spatial Sculpture, 1992), and two halved stones (Untitled, 1992) by Jimmie Durham. 

Photo: Dagmar von Sonjevski

Buildings were also erected specifically for documenta for the first time, among them the temporary Aue pavilions in the park (“Place of Dionysian Lightness”). As the “Place of Democracy,” documenta Halle, completed only shortly before the exhibition on the hillside leading to the Karlsaue, housed installations by Absalon, Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Cildo Meireles, Matt Mullican, and Panamarenko, along with other works. Rebecca Horn created an extraordinarily intense atmosphere with her installation entitled Der Mond, das Kind, der anarchistische Fluß (The Moon, the Child, the Anarchist River, 1992) inside the former Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule. The program of accompanying events also caused quite a stir, as Jan Hoet incorporated jazz and baseball as well as boxing matches into this art event. Hoet explained that boxing is a physical activity that is closely related to life “because it is an outgrowth of life itself.”

In spite of its popularity, or perhaps precisely because of it, documenta 9 drew heated criticism. Critics complained about the lack of a concept (which Hoet himself had postulated at the outset), claiming that the exhibition was conventional and random, ultimately an “amusement park” due to its “mix of styles.” Yet most of the 608,000 visitors remembered the exhibition as a sensuous experience. 


Participating Artists


  • Abramović, Marina
  • Absalon (Absalon, Eshel & Meir, Eshel)
  • Artschwager, Richard (Artschwager, Richard Ernst)


  • Bacon, Francis
  • Bagnoli, Marco
  • Baikas, Nicos
  • Balka, Miroslaw (Bałka, Mirosław)
  • Barney, Matthew
  • Barr, Jerry
  • Baumgarten, Lothar
  • Bertrand, Jean-Pierre
  • Beuys, Joseph
  • Biberstein, Michael
  • Bijl, Guillaume
  • Birnbaum, Dara
  • Borofsky, Jonathan
  • Bourgeois, Louise
  • Brandl, Herbert
  • Brey, Ricardo
  • Brown, Tony
  • Burki, Marie José
  • Bustamante, Jean-Marc
  • Buthe, Michael
  • Byars, James Lee


  • Caldas, Waltercio
  • Calzolari, Pier Paolo
  • Caramelle, Ernst
  • Carroll, Lawrence
  • Cemin, Saint Clair (Saint Clair Cemin & Clair Cemin, Saint)
  • Ciecierski, Tomasz
  • Clark, Tony
  • Coleman, James
  • Conrad, Tony
  • Corillon, Patrick


  • Damian (Damian, Horia)
  • Daniëls, René
  • David, Jacques Louis
  • Deacon, Richard
  • De Cordier, Thierry (Cordier, Thierry de)
  • Defraoui, Silvie & Chérif (Defraoui, Silvie et Chérif)
  • De Keyser, Raoul (Keyser, Raoul de)
  • Delvoye, Wim
  • Dimitrijevic, Braco
  • Dittborn, Eugenio
  • Dorner, Helmut
  • Douglas, Stan
  • Dumas, Marlene
  • Durham, Jimmie


  • Edoga, Mo
  • Ensor, James


  • Fabre, Jan
  • Fabro, Luciano
  • Fainarú, Belu-Simion
  • Fend, Peter
  • Finn-Kelcey, Rose
  • Flatz (Flatz, Wolfgang)
  • Fortuyn/O'Brien (O'Brien, Fortuyn & Fortuyn-O'Brien)
  • Francois, Michel
  • Frandsen, Erik A.
  • Frenkel, Vera
  • Förg, Günther
  • Funakoshi, Katsura


  • Gauguin, Paul
  • Genzken, Isa
  • Gerber, Gaylen
  • Giacometti, Alberto
  • Gober, Robert
  • Graham, Dan
  • Graham, Rodney
  • Grauerholz, Angela
  • Gross, Michael


  • Hadjimichalis, George
  • Hammons, David
  • Herold, Georg
  • Hill, Gary
  • Hopkins, Peter (Hopkins, Peter P.)
  • Horn, Rebecca
  • Horn, Roni


  • James, Geoffrey
  • Jenssen, Olav Christopher
  • Johnson, Tim


  • Kabakov, Il'ja (Kabakow, Ilya I. & Kabakow, Ilja & Kabakov, Ilija & Kabakov, Ilya)
  • Kapoor, Anish
  • Katase, Kazuo
  • Kawamata, Tadashi
  • Kelley, Mike
  • Kelly, Ellsworth
  • Khakhar, Bhupen (Bhupen Khakhar)
  • Kirkeby, Per
  • Klingelhöller, Harald
  • Kocherscheidt, Kurt
  • Kogler, Peter
  • Kokolia, Vladimir
  • Kosuth, Joseph
  • Kruk, Mariusz
  • Kuitca, Guillermo


  • Lafont, Suzanne
  • Lange, Gustav
  • Lasker, Jonathan
  • Leirner, Jac
  • Leonard, Zoe (Leonhard, Zoe/Fotografie)
  • Leroy, Eugène
  • Lewandowsky, Via (Lewandowski, Volker Via & Lewandowsky, Volker Via)
  • Lohaus, Bernd
  • Lüscher, Ingeborg
  • Lukacs, Attila Richard
  • Lutes, Jim (Lutes, James)


  • Maeyer, Marcel
  • Marden, Brice
  • Meireles, Cildo
  • Meister, Ulrich
  • Merrick, Thom
  • Merz, Gerhard
  • Merz, Mario
  • Merz, Marisa
  • Meuser (Meuser, Ri)
  • Meyer, Jürgen
  • Moro, Liliana
  • Mucha, Reinhard
  • Mullican, Matt
  • Muñoz, Juan


  • Nagasawa, Hidetoshi
  • Nauman, Bruce
  • Neuhaus, Max
  • Nevalainen, Pekka
  • Näher, Christa
  • Nicosia, Nic
  • Ninio, Moshe (Ninio, Mosche)
  • Niva, Jussi
  • Noland, Cady


  • Ocampo, Manuel
  • Othoniel, Jean-Michel
  • Oursler, Tony


  • Panamarenko (Herwegen, Henri van)
  • Paolini, Giulio
  • Penck, A. R. (Winkler, Ralph & Winkler, Ralf)
  • Pistoletto, Michelangelo
  • Pitz, Hermann
  • Prina, Stephen
  • Prince, Richard
  • Puryear, Martin


  • Rabinowitch, Royden
  • Racine, Rober
  • Rantzer, Philip
  • Ray, Charles
  • Raysse, Martial
  • Rückriem, Ulrich
  • readymades belong to everyone
  • Reis, Pedro Cabrita (Cabrita Reis, Pedro)
  • Resende, José
  • Richter, Gerhard
  • Rollof, Ulf
  • Rothenberg, Erika
  • Rothenberg, Susan
  • Ruff, Thomas
  • Runge, Stephan
  • Ruscha, Edward (Ruscha, Ed)
  • Ruthenbeck, Reiner


  • Salvadori, Remo
  • Scanlan, Joe
  • Schaerf, Eran
  • Schiess, Adrian
  • Schütte, Thomas
  • Schweizer, Helmut
  • Serebrjakova, Marija (Serebrjakova, Maria & Serebryakova, Maria & Cerebrjakova, Maria & Serebriakova, Maria)
  • Simoni, Mariella
  • Solano, Susana
  • Sow, Ousmane (Sow, Usmane)
  • Spalletti, Ettore
  • Steinbach, Haim
  • Steir, Pat
  • Strack, Wolfgang
  • Struth, Thomas
  • Sugár, János


  • Takeoka, Yuji
  • Therrien, Robert
  • Thorne, David & Katya Sander & Ashley Hunt & Sharon Hayes & Andrea Geyer (Scripts & 9 Scripts from a Nation at War & Nine Scripts from a Nation at War)
  • Thursz, Frederic Matys
  • Toroni, Niele
  • Totsikas, Thanassis
  • Trinci, Addo Lodovico
  • Tusek, Mitja
  • Tuymans, Luc


  • Ulman, Mîkhah (Ullman, Micha & Ullmann, Micha)
  • Uslé, Juan


  • Viola, Bill
  • Visch, Henk


  • Welling, James
  • West, Franz
  • Whiteread, Rachel
  • Wool, Christopher


  • Yook, Keun Byung (Byung-Yook, Keun & Keun Byung Yook & Yook, Keun-byung & Yook, Geong Byung & Yuk, Kŭn-byŏng)


  • Zobernig, Heimo
  • Zorio, Gilberto
  • Zvezdochetov, Konstantin

Artistic Director
Jan Hoet

Born in 1936 in Löwen, Belgium, died in 2014 in Ghent, Belgium

Studied art history and archeology, Sint-Lievenscollege, Ghent


Instructor at the School of Arts Ghent, Ghent


Director of the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent


Artistic Director of documenta 9, Kassel


Curator at the S.M.A.K., Ghent


Founding Director of MARTa Herford, Herford

Exhibitions (selection):


Panamarenko, Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent


Marcel Broodthaers, Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent


Joseph Beuys, Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent


Chambres d’amis, Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent


Open Mind/Closed Circuits, S.M.A.K., Ghent


Fabre, Watari-Um Museum, Tokio


documenta 9, Kassel


Bjarne Melgaard: Black Low, MARTa Herford, Herford


James Ensor, MARTa Herford, Herford


Anton Henning, MARTa Herford, Herford


Erik Schmidt: Hunting Grounds, MARTa Herford, Herford


Max Bill: ohne Anfang ohne Ende, MARTa Herford, Herford

Awards (selection):


Awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Ghent


Awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1st class


Awarded the Prize of the Flemish Society for Cultural Achievement


Awarded the Hessian Culture Prize for his work as Artistic Director of documenta 9 (posthumously)

Awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République FrancaisehLettres