Germans Enraged by Documenta Relocation

Documenta's traditional home, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel Photo: Carroy via Wikimedia Commons
Documenta's traditional home, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel Photo: Carroy via Wikimedia Commons

News that the 14th edition of Germany’s most important exhibition of contemporary art, Documenta, will open in Greece instead of Kassel has outraged local politicians an business leaders, reports regional newspaper HNA. Documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk announced the plans for the dual-city edition of the quinquennial exhibition last week (see “Athens to Host Documenta 14“).

Residents and officials are concerned that Documenta’s departure will both diminish Kassel’s reputation internationally as a cultural destination and damage the small provincial city’s economy. “I am appalled and shocked at how the legacy of Documenta founder Arnold Bode is being violated,” Gerhard Jochinger, chairman of a local business association, told HNA.

Anna Homm, chairperson of a local hotel and catering industry group also expressed her concern: “Local hoteliers assume that, due to the competition with Greece, Kassel will lose many guests. I fear that the international audience will choose Athens over Kassel.” According to a study by the University of Kassel, 28 percent of visitors to Documenta 11 came from abroad.

Hotels in the city typically sell out many months in advance for the exhibition’s opening weekend. However, according to Szymczyk’s plans, the exhibition will first open in Athens in April. Should visitors decide to skip the German portion of the exhibition, which will open between the 2017 Venice Biennale and Art Basel in Basel, it could be a significant hit to local businesses, opponents have argued.

The local head of the conservative CDU political party, Norbert Wett told HNA “We shouldn’t be letting Athens take our Documenta away from us.” He also said that the city of Kassel should not be contributing €300,000 towards the €3.5 million budget to stage Documenta abroad.

The concerns of locals seem to be falling on deaf ears. The mayor of Kassel, Bertram Hilgen, who is also chairman of Documenta’s supervisory board, has publicly supported Szymczyk’s plans. In near-complete opposition to others’ statements he said that “the fact that Documenta 14 will take place in Athens will move Kassel into the focus of global attention.”


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