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Redistribution of books to visitors during dismantling of Marta Minujin’s Parthenon of Banned Books at the closing ceremony of Documenta 14 in Kassel. Photo: Mathias Voelzke.

Documenta Artists Launch Petition Demanding New Supervisory Structure

More than two hundred artists who have participated in past exhibitions of Documenta signed a petition against the growing obsession over the show’s profits. “We are compelled to write to propose an improved structure for Documenta that does not prioritize revenue above all other priorities, and defends its future artistic and curatorial autonomy and progressive political mission,” the document reads.

Artists who participated in the most recent iteration of the exhibition have already written two open letters defending Documenta 14’s curatorial model, its former CEO Annette Kulenkampff and artistic director Adam Szymczyk, and the exhibition’s autonomy. Despite repeatedly voicing that Documenta should remain free from political interference, the recent controversy over Documenta 14’s financial deficit prompted Germany’s far-right AfD party to sue the exhibition over its alleged “misappropriation of funds and other offenses.” The artists have now outlined steps detailing how Documenta should move forward without compromising its mission.

The petition states that the exhibition needs to implement a new supervisory structure in order to retain its autonomy. It stresses that the quinquennial is opposed to Eurocentrism and should have the freedom to hold events outside of Germany. It also states that Documenta needs to reaffirm its commitment to fighting institutional racism and insurgent fascism—the petition is critical of the board’s silence amid recent attacks by members of the AfD. The artists also declare that Documenta should maintain its nonprofit status and continue to fund the Documenta Archive, Documenta Institute, and its public art program, organizing these institutions based on “the trajectory set by documenta 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 that contributed to profound changes that impacted understanding of art in our age.”

Artists Christian Boltanski, Johan Grimonprez, Hans Haacke, Sanja Iveković, Marta Minujin, and Stanley Whitney, along with members of Documenta 14’s curatorial team—Pierre Bal-Blanc, Hendrik Folkerts, Dieter Roelstraete, and Monika Szewczyk—are among the signatories.

The petition comes in the wake of mismanagement allegations, a deficit of about $8.3 million, the handling of the audit report, and recent German press reports, which called the exhibition’s expansion into Athens a financial “mistake.”

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