Documenta CEO Annette Kulenkampff Is Out After $6 Million Debt Debacle

Her tenure will end next June and she will not complete the final year of her contract.

Annette Kulenkampff. Photo: Stathis Mamalakis, courtesy of documenta.

Annette Kulenkampff, the CEO of documenta’s parent company, has agreed to step down a year before her contract expires in the wake of controversy over the financial health of the quinquennial exhibition, which racked up a deficit of €5.4 million ($6.3 million) under her tenure.

Announcing the departure in a brief statement published on its website on Monday, the city of Kassel said that Kulenkampff will leave her post on June 1, 2018, “by mutual decision.” For the remaining seven months of her tenure, which was originally set to conclude in mid-2019, Kulenkampff will help implement structural changes and begin the search for a new artistic director for documenta 15 in 2022. After that, she will “pursue new professional challenges.”

In September it emerged that the event’s state shareholders—the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse—rescued the company from bankruptcy by providing €8 million ($9.5 million) in emergency loan guarantees. In November, the results of a subsequent audit revealed that overspending at documenta’s secondary venue in Athens led to the sizable deficit.

Much of the blame fell on the shoulders of Kulenkampff, who was accused of failing to implement the budget and to manage the ambitions of artistic director Adam Szymczyk. In an interview with German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Kulenkampff defended herself by saying that unexpected expenses related to air conditioning, tax hikes, transportation, and security led to the overspending.

Monday’s decision ends months of speculation over Kulenkampff’s future, which hung in the balance since news of the deficit broke earlier this year.


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