Documenta 14

The Great Wall Label Shortage of 2017! Critic Chaos! Artists Take Matters into Their Own Hands

A label being belatedly installed.

Surely by now you’ve heard about it: the rush of frustrated questions to blank-faced gallery attendants. The befuddled expressions on the faces of international art critics. The puzzled looks at blank pieces of paper taped to walls. The desperate quest for information—any information!—on this or that artist or artwork in the Neue Galerie, the natural history museum, and myriad other venues. The sighs of resignation. Yes, I’m talking about the great wall label shortage that has plagued Kassel in recent days.

Seriously, folks, yesterday marked the international art press’s first access to Documenta 14 and there just. Weren’t. Enough. Wall. Labels. Everyone kvetched about it.

Now, this would be understandable if the curators had, like, a week to throw the whole show together but they had . . . drumroll . . . more than two years. (If the phrase “you had one job” comes to mind, know that you are not alone in thinking it.) As one curator told me, this lack of explanatory text does a disservice to artists.

Anyways, we’ve been compiling a list of inadequate and/or doctored wall labels. In some cases, artists appear to have been taking matters into their own hands. In my personal favorite instance of this, an artist didn’t stop at adding just personal wall text but also affixed a note to another artwork, relaying some comments about it. And that’s the upside of the great wall label shortage of 2017: it may give birth to a whole new way of making these things. See the images below!

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