The first documenta took place in Kassel, Germany in 1955 as a means to bring Germany back into a dialogue with other nations after World War II. The Kassel painter and academy professor Arnold Bode (who had been banned from practicing art in 1933) was the founder of this exhibition. One of his goals was to show 20th century art and connect with the international art world. About 130,000 visitors attended the first exhibition. There was truly a hunger for this type of event.
documenta does not take place every year. In the first few decades, it was every four or five years, and starting in 1972, it entered the current quinquennial rhythm. Also in 1972, the board decided to have an international jury elect an artistic director for each cycle who puts their personal imprint on the character of the exhibition.
This year (2017) brought a new paradigm for documenta 14, showing in Kassel from June 10 through September 9: the event partnered with the city of Athens, Greece, which held its own documenta from April 8 through July 16.
Visitors can purchase tickets for one day, two days, or the entire season. However, one day is insufficient to see everything shown. It’s best to wear comfortable shoes, as visitors walk from one building to the next. Some exhibitions are shown outside in public places and in gardens.
Migrations and refugees are one of the main themes throughout this year’s event.
The main documenta 14 space at the Fridericianum is dedicated to contemporary Greek artists, many pieces on loan from the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. One room is dedicated to photos, including memories of the years of the junta (military rule) in Greece. In the entrance hall, visitors can frolic in patterned colored lights, forming a “painting” on the floor.
Right in front of the historic Museum Fridericianum is the “Parthenon of Books,” an edifice entirely built of books from around the world.
There is no information as of yet on documenta 15, presumably to be held in 2022.