Kassel Breaks Ground for Documenta Expo | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 09.01.2007
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Kassel Breaks Ground for Documenta Expo

Despite uncertain funding, preparations for the international art expo documenta 12 are now underway in the city of Kassel. Meanwhile, a parallel exhibit in Hanover is planning to draw documenta visitors up north.


Work has begun in Kassel ion the documenta exhibition hall

On Monday, tillers began tearing out large sections of grass in the downtown Kassel's French Garden. It wasn't just ordinary park maintenance -- workers were ripping off the top soil in the name of modern art.

Five months before the June 16 start of documenta, organizers have begun creating the expo location. Since it kicked off in 1955, Kassel has hosted all 11 previous documenta modern art exhibits, which are now held every five years.

By the end of April, a 12,000 square-meter (129,000 square-foot) glass building should be in place, where about three-quarters of the documenta exhibition pieces will be housed. Shortly after the 100-day event, the structure will be torn down, the grass replanted, allowing Kassel's downtown to return to normal.

Sponsors still needed

Roger M. Buergel Documenta 2007

As documenta's artistic director, Roger Buergel is busy recruiting sponsors

But the tight timeframe is not the only concern documenta's artistic director Roger Buergel has to worry about. Financing for the short-lived building is also not yet secure, though he added that he has no doubts the exhibit will take place.

"Documenta will take place no matter what," Buergel said. "Even if only the asphalt surface is there, then we'll show the exhibit on that."

Nevertheless, the director is optimistic about finding sponsors to cover the cost of the glass exhibition hall, estimated to cost three million euros.

Sponsors, marketing and ticket sales will have to cover the building's costs and provide half of the exhibit's 19 million euro budget. Public funds will cover the other half of the budget but cannot be spent on construction.

Competition in the art arena

Buergel will also have to contend with a number of concurrent major art highlight in Germany this summer that will also be vying for visitors.

Three museums in Hanover, for example, plan to profit from the influx of art-lovers with a project called "Made in Germany." The show, scheduled from May 25 to Aug. 26, will feature works by 50 young artists from Germany, who have yet to make names for themselves.

Documenta 11 in Kassel 2002, Kunstobjekt New Manhattan City von Bodys Isek Kingelez

Bodys Isek Kingelez showed "New Manhattan City" at documenta in 2002

"We don't want to pit ourselves against documenta and we don't want to be a new documenta," said Beate Anspach, spokesperson for the "Made in Germany" exhibit. "Our goal is to reach the international art scene."

Similar to documenta, "Made in Germany" organizers are planning an exhibition catalogue in both German and English in order to cater to international guests and to make "Germany's artistic landscape more accessible," said Veit Görner, director of the Kestner Society, one of the three participating Hanover museums.

While around 650,000 visitors are expected to attend documenta, "Made in Germany" is hoping to draw 35,000 to 40,000 art enthusiasts to Hanover.

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