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Documenta 12

DW staff (ot)June 12, 2007

The Documenta art show begins on Saturday in Kassel, a city caught between old and new very much to the delight of its many visitors.

Documenta 12 opening
Documenta 12 attracts visitors for three monthsImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Every five years the world-renowned exhibition of contemporary art brings an air of excitement into this normally reserved German city.

For the common visitor, a short walk through Kassel reveals that something different is going on in this city. For example, artist Walter de Maria's so-called "Kasseler Loch," or Kassel whole, a 1,000-meter (3,280 feet) metal pole pounded vertically into the ground and sculptor Claes Oldenburg's 12-meter-high pick-ax seemingly stuck into the bank of the Fulda River by a passing giant can't be missed.

And no visitor will forget Jonathan Borowsky's "Man Walking to the Sky," a sculpture of a man walking up a pole 25 meters into the air directly in front of the Kassel train station.

"Old" Kassel

Jonathan Borowsky’s “Man Walking to the Sky”
Kassel's "Man Walking to the Sky"Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The city's art installations make up only part of its charm. For many visitors, the mix of old and new really gives this quiet city its unique atmosphere.

While strolling through one of the Kassel's many parks, visitors may feel like they are being watched. On top of a castle in the hillside that is Wilhelmshohe Park stands a towering bronze statue of Hercules.

Built in 1719, the statue tops an octagonal castle overlooking Kassel with a cascading landscaping which is unique to Germany. The panoramic view from the apex of the park makes the walk up to Hercules' perch worthwhile.

Tourists following the German Fairytale Route, a trail from Hanau to Bremen, will land in Kassel due to the city's two most famous sons.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm moved to the town in 1798 and over the years collected many of their famous tales within the city's medieval walls, including Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.

Located in Bellevue Palace, the Brothers Grimm Museum highlights not just the storytelling prowess of the brothers (their last collection contained over 200 fairytales) but also their linguistic and political work.

Documenta XII

Since its inaugural event in 1955, Documenta has helped to transform Kassel into a worldwide destination for contemporary art. Its three-month-long show is an artistic free-for-all and takes place in the middle of a medieval park.

Line of people waiting to enter Documenta 11
Kassel expects large crowdsImage: dpa

This year the people of Kassel are invited to the party. Instead of the invitation-only cocktail parties of Documentas past, the curators will host a celebration to thank the residents of Kassel for their support through 12 Documentas.

The party will feature Norwegian rock band Kaizers Orchestra and the DJ formation Cluster, and will culminate in an illumination of the park's renowned water gardens.

From the collection of old master paintings in the Wilhelmshöhe Palace Art Gallery to the clean modern design of the Karl Branner Bridge, Kassel is a city of contradiction.

A contradiction that is sure to be deepened through the summer as the artists, curators and Documenta visitors descend upon the city. The Brothers Grimm would be proud.

Documenta 12 runs from June 16 to Sept. 23, 2007.