And we are off to the races.
Early this afternoon in Kassel, Germany, at the Documenta Halle exhibition venue, a group of officials—including the city’s lord mayor, Christian Geselle, and the Hessian minister of state for science and art, Angela Dorn—revealed that the Indonesian artist collective Ruangrupa has been selected to be artistic director of the 15th edition of Documenta, the closely watched and generally sprawling exhibition that every five years fills Kassel (and sometimes other cities) with boatloads of art, films, music, and public programs.
Documenta 15 is scheduled to run in 2022 from June 18 through September 25, for a total of 100 days, in keeping with its nickname of “The Museum of 100 Days.”
Ruangrupa was founded in 2000 in Jakarta, Indonesia, and has been involved with a wide array of curatorial activities in its home country and abroad since then. Ten members will form the core team for organizing Documenta.
Among the collective’s credits are participating in the Gwangju Biennale (in 2002 and 2018), the Istanbul Biennale (2005), and the Singapore Biennale (2016). It also organized the 2016 edition of the storied Sonsbeek public-art exhibition in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Two of its members, Farid Rakun and Ade Darmawan, were on hand for the announcement today.
Philippe Pirotte, the director of the Städelschule and Portikus in Frankfurt, who was a member of the selection committee, said in a statement, “We have appointed Ruangrupa because they have demonstrated the ability to appeal to various communities, including groups that go beyond pure art audiences, and to promote local commitment and participation. Their curatorial approach is based on an international network of local community-based art organizations.
First up for the group—whose Indonesian name means “a space for art”—will be assembling and announcing a team, which typically consists of other curators and specialists to handle publications, education, and other aspects of the grand show.
The Documenta job is one of the most coveted and prestigious in the international curatorial game—the kind of position that one hopefully dines out on for the rest of a long and illustrious career. Ruangrupa was selected from a group of 10 finalists.
Until today, every artistic director but Okwui Enwezor, the Nigerian-born curator who organized number 11, had hailed from Europe or the United States.
Only 13 individuals have held the top curatorial position at Documenta, and just three of them have been women: Catherine David (for the quinquennial’s 10th edition), Ruth Noack (who co-organized the 12th), and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (the 13th). (One asterisk: a 24-member council picked artists for number 4, though in Documenta’s own telling, the decisive figures were Jean Leering and Arnold Bode, the exhibition’s cofounder.)
The majordomo of the last Documenta, number 14, was Adam Szymczyk, who made the unprecedented decision to expand the show dramatically in scale, mounting shows throughout Athens. His edition ended in controversy, with claims that the organization ran up a deficit of €7.6 million (about $8.62 million at today’s exchange rate), a shortfall that was eventually covered by municipal and state governments in Germany. Officials have since said that Szymczyk and Documenta’s then-CEO, Annette Kulenkampff, committed no criminal wrongdoing. Kulenkampff stepped down in late November of 2017, and Sabine Schormann was hired as its new CEO last April.
Ruangrupa was picked by a committee of eight peers that can only be described as formidable. They are: Ute Meta Bauer, who’s the founder and director of Singapore’s Centre for Contemporary Art; Charles Esche, the director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in the Netherlands; artist Amar Kanwar, who appeared in Documenta 13 and 14; Frances Morris, the director of Tate Modern; Gabi Ngcobo, who curated the 2018 Berlin Biennale; Elvira Dyangani Ose, the director of the Showroom in London; Jochen Volz, who directs the Pinacoteca do Estado in São Paulo; and Pirotte.
As of yet, Documenta 15 does not yet have a unique stylization affixed to its name—à la dOCUMENTA (13) or documenta X—but we’ll keep you updated.
This post will be updated.