DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16/06-23/09 2007

documenta 12 - from 16 June to 23 September 2007 - a review

Photo: Isabel Winarsch

751,301 visitors

After 100 days, documenta 12 came to an end on a sunny Sunday. The exhibition, devised by artistic director Roger M. Buergel and curator Ruth Noack featuring work by 109 artists from 43 countries, was visited by 751,301 paying guests. There were also 4,390 professionals and 15,537 journalists from 52 countries.
This corresponds to an increase in numbers unparallelled in recent documenta history, with 16% paying visitors (100,000 people) more than at Documenta 11.

More international visitors

One third of the visitors came from outside Germany, mainly from the Netherlands, the USA, France, Belgium and Austria. There was a considerable increase in the numbers visiting from various Eastern European states (headed by Poland), from Australia and the USA, and from Asia: from South Korea, Japan, not to forget China, which made sixth place in visitor ranking for the first time.

Local outreach via the documenta 12 advisory board – twice as many visitors from Kassel
In terms of audience composition, documenta 12 was very interested in a strong local public in Kassel. The 40-member documenta 12 advisory board cooperated with the Schlachthof cultural centre very closely – and with great success: more than twice as many visitors (14%) came from the Kassel region compared with the numbers for the last documenta (7%). In cooperation with the art education team, a range of activities were initiated by the advisory board that we hope will continue to have a positive impact in the city beyond the run of documenta 12. The Schlachthof cultural centre proved its worth as an exhibition venue and was visited by around 40,000 people. Schloss Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel’s historic Bergpark was also a popular exhibition location with more than 220,000 visitors.

However, an exhibition as ambitious as documenta cannot be measured in terms of audience numbers alone. They merely confirm that, after more than half a century, documenta has still not lost its attraction for an international audience.
And they show that it is possible for a large-scale exhibition to be popular without being populist. The documenta 12 audience accepted the challenges of contemporary art and an exhibition not oriented toward the conventions of the western art market with great openness and attentiveness.
Educational commitment – 7,635 guided tours
It is hard to state objectively whether this exhibition achieved its aim of creating a public in various senses of the word. One potential indicator is the very positive response to the documenta 12 art education programme that went beyond simple services in an attempt to activate the audience as a whole. Overall, more than 7,635 guided tours took place, including over 1,500 for school classes. In the newly developed format “Inhabiting the world”, 54 school children took adults round the exhibition 178 times altogether. And - what is at least equally important - they spent a total of 5,700 hours engaging with documenta 12. There was also a very positive response to the increased outreach to the exhibition’s young visitors, with the art education programme “hatching ideas” well attended every weekend. Documentation of this and other events records highly enjoyable encounters with contemporary art.

documenta 12 magazines: 3 publications, 300 contributions, 188 guests
Long before the opening of the show itself, the documenta 12 magazines project invited over 100 publications from around the world with a range of formats and focuses to think about the themes and motifs of the exhibition and to share their thoughts – networked via an extensive editorial platform.
This generated over 300 pieces, essays and interviews which will continue to be available online after the exhibition via the Online Journal at under the menu item Magazines. This material was also used to publish three magazines on the exhibition’s leitmotifs; the initial edition sold out immediately and has been reissued as a reader. During the exhibition, the editors of all involved magazines were invited to discuss their views of documenta 12 and its themes.

Exhibition as production space: 100 Lunch Lectures

The daily Lunch Lectures, held for 100 days in a relaxed but concentrated atmosphere with an inquisitive audience, were a joint initiative by documenta 12 magazines, the documenta 12 advisory board and the art education team. These three organisational forms of the exhibition shared an interest in presenting documenta in different contexts and fostering exchange with local knowledge. At the Lunch Lectures, the resulting activities were discussed in an informal setting with guests and audience.
Besides the Lunch Lectures, featuring over 340 guests from around the world, there were also nearly 70 workshops, presentations and film/video screenings.
All of the Lunch Lectures will be available from next week as audio files (podcasts) from

Second Lives – the documenta 12 film programme

The decision to return film to its traditional location, i.e. the cinema, for documenta 12 was clearly welcomed by the public. A daily average of 130 people saw the film programme curated by Alexander Horwath. And not only the three world premieres of films by Robert Beavers, James Benning and Dietmar Brehm were sold out, but also many of the programme’s “routine” screenings that covered the full range of what cinema has to offer.
The team of documenta 12 thanks all the visitors and citizens of Kassel!


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