Last Saturday, June 16th, Kassel’s Documenta was opened to public visitation. It’s the most important exhibition of contemporary art. While other huge shows like Venice, SÃ£o Paulo or Whitney’s Biennials try to reflect what’s happening in the art world, the Documenta has its own agenda and as a result the art world ends up reflecting most of what was proposed by the Documenta until the next comes and throws the dice again.
One of the many reasons this show is so awaited and exciting is its periodicity, five years. That gives enough time for each edition curator to plan the exhibition at the highest level of detail, something extremely necessary when dealing with a show of this magnitude. This year’s edition, the12th, has Roger M. Buergel as artistic director and Ruth Noack as curator. It features 530 works from 113 artists around the globe and spreads out at five different places in Kassel, Germany. They worked on the preparation and concepts of the Documenta for 3 and a half years.
This Documenta sets the end of the white cube. White cube is a major question of post modernism. Simply put, it is the most neutral possible space to show artworks, everything that surrounds the works are white, and ideally there is nothing beyond the walls, floor, and ceiling that surrounds the works. This edition has walls of all colors of the rainbow and not white. That’s a huge gamble actually, I don’t know if something that is one of the biggest established ideas in contemporary art can simply die. This is actually not the first attempt of it, but I do think that non white cube spaces will begin to make their way to the mainstream from now on since it is the first time that one of the huge shows, the hugest in fact, approaches the question explicitly. If you’re interested to know more about the white cube theory you can read Brian O’Doherty essay “Inside the White Cube”.
Documenta 12 also intends to be didactic mixing antiques like Persian caligraphy, Chinese tapestry, modern artists like Manet and Klee with contemporary art. Curator Noack says: “to understand what today artists are doing it’s needed to understand their roots. In this exhibition that’s what we call migration of form”. Also by Noack: “to be an exhibition of contemporary art doesn’t require only contemporary works, after all a two years old work isn’t contemporary anymore. The most important is that it happens now and makes possible contemporary lectures”.
What I tell you is: go visit. Remember, you’ll be five years older at the next opportunity. Plus you can take a train and also visit the Venice Biennial. The two shows occur at the same time only every 10 years. A must see.
While not there, check Documenta’s website to learn more about it.