From the 8th of April until the 17th of September the art world reflects upon itself across Europe. Following its inauguration in Athens, the documenta14 also opens it doors in Kassel on June 10th, this art event’s place of origin. “Learning from Athens” is the working title. Welcome to the spectacular art year of 2017: The documenta14 is on.

Adam Szymczyk, born in Poland in 1970, is the artistic head of the festival. Before gaining this position, he was director and chief curator of Kunsthalle Basel. Together with his international team of fellow curators and advisors he realised the introduction of a novel element in this documenta’s edition: For the first time, the documenta co-operates with the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens. Szymczyk’s concept of realising the documenta in two places was received positively in general. But of course there has also been criticism of this visionary enterprise: The local branch of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) tried to whip up public sentiment against the new course, along with Kassel’s daily newspaper HNA, and the head of the associations of city merchants. With regards to the latter group, it is at least understandable that they fear a decline in sales due to art tourists choosing Athens over Kassel. However:

„There is no such thing as a patriotic art or a patriotic science. Both art and science belong, like every higher good, to all the world and can be fostered only by the free flow of mutual influence among all contemporaries, with constant regard for all we have and know of the past.“

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In Athens as well as in Kassel, the teams of documenta and EMST work together. The EMST constitutes the documenta14’s biggest exhibition space in Athens. Conversely, the Greek delegation will show a curated selection of the EMST’s collection in the Fridericianum in Kassel. Through the change of the exhibition location, a change of perspective is supposed to happen that – as Szymczyk hopes – will make the transformation of the documenta14 possible. Therefore Szymczyk turned the familiar role of Kassel as a host on its head, and developed an exhibition concept that puts the city in the role of a guest. The roughly 160 participating artists are asked to develop work for both places to reflect the resulting dynamics. The question that both institutions ask is: How will art and its institutions become truly public and contribute to the common good?

Katerina Koskina, director of the EMST and her curatorial team, regard the Friedericanum in light of its long history. It was founded in 1779 as the first public museum on the European mainland. Later it was turned into a library, and then into a “Kunsthalle” (a public art gallery without a permanent collection). In 1955, it was the birthplace of the documenta. At that time the building was still a war ruin. The magnificent building with its honourable history also housed the parliament of the kingdom of Westphalia. It only retained this noble position for six years, however, between 1807 and 1813 – but nevertheless, it was the first parliamentary building in German history. This historic background served the Athenians as an inspiration and provided a good reason to show part of the EMST’s spectacular collection there. The exhibition’s goal is to share stories and histories, to question hegemonic versions of history and its protagonists.

In case you are not kissed by the muse at the exhibition – an unlikely scenario due to the intellectually sophisticated content of the exhibition – one of our art-savvy escort ladies from Frankfurt, Cologne or the region would love to take her place. Travelling together to Athens is of course also an option. It is, after all, much more fun to enjoy art in great company, especially because you can exchange your impressions afterwards.

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