German and Greek presidents open Documenta 14 exhibition in Athens | News | DW | 08.04.2017
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German and Greek presidents open Documenta 14 exhibition in Athens

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Greek counterpart have opened the Documenta 14 exhibition in Greece. Local media said it was a chance to "get rid of stereotypes, imaginary enemies and other obsessions."

After a small ceremony and a tour, the presidents of Germany and Greece on Saturday opened the Documenta 14 exhibition co-hosted by the two countries.

The multimedia exhibition showcasing over 160 international artists is being held outside of Kassel, Germany, for the first time since it started in 1955.

Held every five years, it is one of the world's most important contemporary art exhibitions. This year it will take place in both its traditional German home and in the Greek capital, Athens.

'Importance of art and culture'

Both German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos emphasized the importance of art and culture for European society and politics in their speeches at the Athens Museum of Contemporary Art.

Watch video 42:30

Learning From Athens - documenta 14

More than 150 artists will present their works, performances and installations in the Greek capital over the next three months. The Documenta 14 exhibition runs from June 10 to September 17 in its traditional hometown of Kassel and from April 8 to July 16 in Athens.

Chance for culture

Burdened with a host of other worries, including debt, unemployment, rising poverty, negotiations with creditors, new elections and a possible exit from the euro, it was hardly surprising that Greeks weren't really interested in Documenta 14 in the run-up to the the world-famous exhibition.

Read more: Will Documenta have an impact on Athens' art scene?

The exhibition also sparked controversy last September with a kick-off from the public program "Parliament of Bodies," entitled "34 exercises of freedom."

One of the venues alone sparked controversy, since the Athens Municipality Arts Center served as the headquarters of the military police during the dictatorship years from 1967 to 1974. Many Greeks found the choice offensive.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and his German colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and his German colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier

However, according to local media, a change has come about in Athens, where there has been no money for cultural activities in recent years.

Newspaper "Kathimerini" said on Saturday that hosting Documenta 14 also meant responsibility. "Can we meet this challenge at all?" asked the paper. "Nor organizationally - the Germans have taken care of that. But psychologically?"

"Now it is necessary to get rid of stereotypes, imaginary enemies and other obsessions," the paper added. "Documenta 14 offers enough time for that."

Dimplomatic talks

Steinmeier arrived in Athens on Friday on a two-day official visit to Greece during which also held talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

German-Greek relations have been strained on occasion in recent years, particularly over the austerity measures demanded of Athens in return for bailout loans that have averted a Greek bankruptcy.

ksb/tj (AP, dpa)