Ever since Greece accepted a €240 billion ($308 billion) bailout from the E.U. and I.M.F. in 2010, relations between Germany and Greece have been the focus of international scrutiny. Soon, the art world will consider the two countries through the upcoming edition of Documenta, the quinquennial exhibition set for 2017. Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk will divide the event between Kassel and the Greek capital, and has given the dual exhibition the working title “Documenta 14: Learning From Athens.”
While the recent financial relationship between Greece and Germany factored into Szymczyk’s interest in Athens, he said its geographic identity and immigration issues were more curatorially relevant.
“There are issues of hostility toward austerity measures, which is completely understandable, and other difficult issues between Germany and Greece will of course be addressed during the process of making the exhibition, but it will not become the main topic of the exhibition,” said Szymczyk, calling from Kassel. “What interested me is that Athens is a contemporary metropolitan city of the Mediterranean that is connected to other places across the water. It borders Turkey, it has an influx of migrants coming all over the place–Asia, Africa, and so forth. It’s a figure of a larger situation that Europe has to confront, and I hope it will confront with this exhibition…I see [Athens] as a portal or border or place where people coming from many, many other places can have visibility.”
While specific venues in Athens have not yet been selected, Szymczyk said he has been working with artists, writers, curators, philosophers, and people involved in theater and cinema in that city to craft the vision for the exhibition.
Commercial art dealers have not been part of the programming thus far. “I think there are different tasks for different actors in this whole art world, and I think that Documenta should keep a reasonable distance from the gallery scene in Greece and also elsewhere,” said Szymczyk. “I’d rather try to seriously engage with public institutions in Athens, as well as in Kassel.”
Since his appointment in November 2013, Szymczyk has been building up a team. So far, his curators include Pierre Bal-Blanc, the director of Contemporary Art Center (CAC) Brétigny; Hendrik Folkerts, curator of performance, film, and discursive programs at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; Hila Peleg, the founder and artistic director of the Berlin Documentary Forum; Dieter Roelstraete, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Monika Szewczyk, visual arts program curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, where she also lectures in the departments of Visual Arts and Art History.
Heading the artistic office in Athens is Marina Fokidis, a writer and curator who founded the Kunsthalle Athena and the biannual arts and culture publication “South as a State of Mind.” She curated the third Thessaloniki Biennale for Contemporary Art in 2011 and was the commissioner and curator of the Greek Pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale Athens.
Christoph Platz, an art historian who worked in the project management department of Documenta 13, will head the exhibition department. Also returning for another round of Documenta is Katrin Sauerländer, an art historian and editor who served as the managing editor for Documenta 13. This time, she will act as Szymczyk’s head of publications, which the poet and critic Quinn Latimer will edit.
Henriette Gallus, who worked on Documenta 13 as a press officer, is the head of communications for this edition. She is joined in the press office by Annie-Claire Geisinger, and Fivos Sakalis, who has worked in communications at the DESTE Foundation and Gagosian Athens Curators Katerina Tselou and Andrea Linnenkohl, who worked on both Documenta 12 and 13, will assist Szymczyk.