documenta 14: Multi-Dimensional Representation

documenta 14 and the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) collaborate on a multi-dimensional programme spanning both institutions and their founding cities, Kassel and Athens. The first leg of documenta 14 has already begun in Greece, where it will run until 16 July and overlap with its counterpart programme in Germany, which commences on 10 June. In Athens, the exhibition is being hosted by EMST, and, in turn, documenta will host EMST’s collection at the Fridericianum in Kassel, presenting a curated selection of the museum’s valuable public collection of Greek and international contemporary art. This comes prior to the expected inauguration of the permanent display at EMST in Athens later this year.

A shared concern is at the heart of documenta and the Athens-Kassel collaboration: How are art and its institutions made public and part of the common good? Since its establishment in 2000, EMST has collected works by Greek and international artists from the 1960s to the present day, with pieces from the growing collection being contextualised through exhibitions presented in temporary spaces. In the meantime, preparations were made for a move into the museum’s permanent home in the former Fix Brewery, which took place in 2015. Building on its nomadic life, EMST invigorates the Fix building whilst also taking a moment to pause and consider what it means to be a contemporary museum today.

Meanwhile, documenta’s capacity to produce an exhibition at the forefront of contemporary art and theory is sustained by stable financial commitments from public funders such as the city of Kassel, the state of Hessen, and the German Federal Cultural Foundation. The history of this exhibition, however, reveals its ideological underpinnings as a West German institution, transformed after 1989 to encompass global art towards the present moment, in which it needs to carefully balance multiple aspects: its relationship to the international art market, its economic impact on the city of Kassel and the importance of its accessibility to all publics versus the necessity to bolster the exhibition budget through income from ticket sales. It has become crucial for documenta to answer the question of what it means to be public today.

Adam Szymczyk’s (Artistic Director of documenta 14) proposal to organise documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel interrogates the position of the institution by reversing the role of host that it has grown so accustomed to, instead shaping an exhibition in a context where it is a guest, and where its calling card is an invitation for a shared Learning from Athens. The presentation of documenta 14 artists and artworks there is inspired by the sense of a libidinal economy, rethinking production, currencies and flows as both social and public. The full vertical span of the building is handed over to the documenta 14 exhibition along with several collaborations with public institutions in the Greek capital.

The exhibition at Fridericianum during documenta 14 in Kassel marks the first time that the collection of Greece’s National Museum of Contemporary Art is presented in Germany. The approach of Katerina Koskina (Director of EMST) and the curatorial team of EMST considers the collection vis-à-vis the long history of the Fridericianum, established in 1779 as the first public museum in mainland Europe, then becoming a library, and finally in its contemporary function as a Kunsthalle as well as, of course, the once ruinous birthplace of documenta in 1955.

Artists represented at documenta 14 include Anna Halprin, Agnes Denes, Yael Davids, Hans Eijkelboom, Otobong Nkanga, Dan Peterman, Tracey Rose, Postcommodity and Zef Shoshi, to name a few.

documenta 14, Athens, until 16 July, EMST and venues across Athens.
documenta 14, Kassel, 10 June – 17 September, Fridericianum and venues across Kassel.

A full list of artists in the public exhibition can be found at

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1. Fridericianum, 2017. Courtesy of documenta 14.