In Brief

Documenta Organizers Call Report of €7M Deficit “Speculations and Half-Truths” [UPDATED]

The organizers of Documenta 14 claim that allegations of overspending are not based on facts and may be used to compromise the exhibition’s independence.

Andreas Angelidakis, "Polemos" (2017), foam and vinyl seating modules, installation view at the Fridericianum, Kassel, for documenta 14 (photo by Nils Klinger, courtesy Documenta)
Andreas Angelidakis, “Polemos” (2017), foam and vinyl seating modules, installation view at the Fridericianum, Kassel, for documenta 14 (photo by Nils Klinger, courtesy Documenta)

Today, the organizers of the 14th edition of the German quinquennial Documenta released a statement disputing claims, first made in an article by the news site HNA, that this year’s edition of the exhibition racked up a €7 million deficit (~$8.3 million). That article laid much of the blame for the cost overruns on the exhibition’s first-ever expansion from Kassel to a second city, Athens.

“Presenting their opinions as objective facts, reiterating speculations and half-truths, the authors portrayed Adam Szymczyk, the Artistic Director of documenta 14, and Annette Kulenkampff, the CEO of documenta gGmbH, as responsible for what they described as the imminent bankruptcy of documenta,” the statement reads. “None of the journalists took their responsibility to check their facts with the two protagonists nor seek to gain a more complex picture of the situation.”

The organizers also denounce the implicit expectations of constantly expanding cultural influence and growing economic benefits that they feel the criticisms in HNA reflect. Their statement goes on to suggest that Documenta’s independence is at stake as the narrative outlined in HNA’s report construes the municipal government of its host city, Kassel, and the state government of Hesse, where Kassel is located, as rescuing the exhibition.

“We have decided at this moment to speak out, and collectively take agency to protect the independence of documenta as a cultural and artistic public institution from political interests,” the statement explains. “Unfortunately, politicians have prompted the media upheaval by disseminating an image of imminent bankruptcy of documenta and at the same time presented themselves as the “saviors” of a crisis they themselves allowed to develop.”

The statement, which is signed by 20 members of the Documenta 14 team, goes on to call out Kassel’s mayor, Christian Geselle, for not disputing the figures in the NHA article in the statement he released on Tuesday. Though the statement doesn’t reveal any specific sums, it does state that Documenta 14’s budget was, save one adjustment, essentially identical to that of its previous edition, which had a budget of €24.6 million ($29.3 million). The organizers also reveal the attendance figures of Documenta 14: more than 330,000 visitors in Athens; and more than 850,000 in Kassel, whose portion of the exhibition remains open through Sunday.

The full statement from the artistic director and organizers can be read here.

Update, 9/15/2017: The artists participating in Documenta 14 have released a statement addressing the reports that the exhibition racked up a €7 million deficit.

“We feel that casting a false shadow of criticism and scandal over documenta 14 does a disservice to the work that the artistic director and his team have put into this exhibition,” the artists’ statement reads, in part. “Shaming through debt is an ancient financial warfare technique; these terms of assessment have nothing to do with what the curators have made possible, and what the artists have actually done within this exhibition.”

Read the full statement from the Documenta 14 artists here.

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