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An artist collective from Indonesia to curate Documenta 15

February 22, 2019

In 2022, the world's most important exhibition for contemporary art will be directed by the group Ruangrupa from Jakarta. The previous curator, Adam Szymczyk, had led the Documenta to the brink of bankruptcy.

Künstlergruppe Ruangrupa
Image: Gudskul/Jin Panji

The Indonesian artist collective Ruangrupa has been picked to curate the upcoming edition of Documenta in 2022,  the selection committee revealed at a press conference on Friday. 

It's the first time that the world-renowned German art show will be directed by an artist collective; the group will also become the event's first curators from Asia.

As a group of artists, Ruangrupa, which loosely translates as "a space for art," has participated in various international visual art events, such as Gwangju Biennale (2002 and 2018), Istanbul Biennale (2005) and Singapore Biennale (2011). The 10-member collective also curated the International Contemporary Arts Exhibition Sonsbeek in the Netherlands in 2016.

Saved from financial collapse

The 2017 edition of the quinquennial event included a separate show in Athens, in addition to its usual location in the city of Kassel.

Despite a record number of visitors, Polish curator Adam Sczymczyk's decision to set Documenta 14 in two countries led to a budget deficit of €7.6 million ($8.6 million).

Adam Szymczyk
Star curator Adam Szymczyk was criticized for his over-ambitious Documenta in 2017Image: picture-alliance/dpa/U. Zucchi

The state of Hesse and the city of Kassel had to step in as guarantors in order to save the Documenta from bankruptcy. 

Germany's populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had filed a lawsuit against the curator and the Documenta CEO, Annette Kulenkampff, accusing them of embezzling public funds. While they were cleared of criminal wrongdoing, Kulenkampff stepped down from her role before the end of her term. 

A community-oriented model

Present at the press conference, two members of the Indonesian collective, Farid Rakun and Ade Darmawan, said that the city of Kassel would be at the center of the upcoming show, even though they could include links with other locations.

 "Our curatorial approach aims at a different community-oriented model of resource usage — economical, but also taking ideas, knowledge, programs, and innovations into account," Rakun and Darmawan said in a statement. 

The curators also aim to address the current social and political context in their curatorial work: "If Documenta was launched in 1955 to heal war wounds, why shouldn't we focus Documenta 15 on today's injuries, especially ones rooted in colonialism, capitalism, or patriarchal structures, and contrast them with partnership-based models that enable people to have a different view of the world?"

The 15th edition of the Documenta will be held in Kassel from June 18 to September 25, 2020.

Documenta highlights from six decades

Elizabeth Grenier Kommentarbild App PROVISORISCH
Elizabeth Grenier Culture reporter and editor based in Berlin.