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The Myth of documenta – Arnold Bode and his Heirs

Scholars from Freie Universität Responsible for Exhibition in Beijing on History of documenta in Kassel / Opens March 1

№ 039/2017 from Feb 28, 2017

The Institute for Arts and Media Management at Freie Universität is responsible for an exhibition shown in Beijing on the history of the documenta in Kassel. The exhibition of 600 objects will be on display in the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing from March 1 through 31. The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the documenta Archive Kassel and the Institute for Art Administration and Education of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and financed and designed by the CAFA Art Museum. The exhibition is curated by Prof. Dr. Klaus Siebenhaar and Mona Stehle from the Institute for Arts and Media Management of the Freie Universität Berlin as well as Prof. Yu Ding and Wang Wenting from the Institute for Art Administration and Education of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

"We are telling the story of the documenta in four central rooms – Reconstruction, Transformation, Anything Goes, and Global Discourse. With this form of presentation, we want to offer basic orientation and context and encourage visitors to reflect on the art world of the present," says Prof. Dr. Klaus Siebenhaar from Freie Universität. This scenario is embedded in a prologue to Arnold Bode as the founder, doer, and inspirer of the early documenta years – as a living epilogue – a "laboratory" on the history and practice of art education because the documenta is an outstanding example for mediating contemporary art through visual comprehension, schools for visitors, lectures, and design.

"The history of the documenta reflects more than just the main lines of development and trends in 20th century art," explains Mona Stehle of Freie Universität. The documenta bears witness to the great masters and influential artists of Modernism and the various strands of contemporary art. It shows all the important stylistic trends such as aesthetic innovations, and it documents the inexorable expansion of the concept of art. Over the 60 years of the history of the documenta, it is possible to see which spaces – social, political, cultural, and everyday life – modern art created and conquered during the past 100 years. "We are basing our exhibition on these museal, playful, eventful, urban, and global spaces for art," says Mona Stehle. The exhibition itself will become a medium for aesthetic transformations, artistic receptions, and life-world interventions. The idea, understanding, and forms of artistic production and staging as well as their transformation by time and society will be illustrated in four very different "spaces" because the history of curating can also be traced and portrayed with the history of the documenta. As Prof. Dr. Klaus Siebenhaar says, "The spaces of art defined by every individual documenta exhibition focus on the contemporary art discourses about freedom and society, work and event aesthetics, transdisciplinarity and scholarship, criticism of the museum and art markets, Eurocentrism and globalization, ecology and interculturality, urban development and society."

Among the more than 600 objects on display, there are 22 works of art, ten original pieces of furniture by Arnold Bode, three oil paintings by Willi Baumeister, archives of letters, drawings, posters, brochures/texts, photos, films, and an original basalt stone for the Beuys room devoted to the 7000 Oaks, a work of landscape art, which was unveiled during the documenta 7 in 1982.

With the exception of several works by Bode that are owned by the Kasseler Sparkasse and the Baumeister painting that is owned by the Willi Baumeister Foundation, most of the objects on display are on loan from the documenta archives in Kassel. In addition, several are on loan from the Alfred Erhardt Foundation, the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt am Main, and a few private individuals.

Time and Location

  • Opening: March 1, 2017
  • Dates: March 1 – 31, 2017
  • CAFA Art Museum, Beijing


  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Siebenhaar, Institute for Arts and Media Management, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-525 70, Email: kuma@zedat.fu-berlin.de
  • Mona Stehle, Institute for Arts and Media Management, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: 0177 / 8226620, Email: kuma@zedat.fu-berlin.de