documenta. ”1929-1955” the beginnings at the Center for Persecuted Arts Solingen

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05 May 2022, North Rhine-Westphalia, Solingen: The Center for Persecuted Arts and Art Museum in Solingen. (Photo by OLIVER BERG / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP)

Together with the documenta archiv, the Center for Persecuted Arts Solingen is looking back on the beginnings of the major exhibition parallel to documenta 15 in 2022.

Both institutions ask what role the documenta and its founders played in the canonization processes in the post-war visual arts. For what reasons did numerous artists fall into oblivion after 1945, a group that was heterogeneous and diverse until the National Socialists took power in 1933? 

A comparative look at the Fourth Great Art Exhibition in Kassel (1929) and the first documenta in Kassel (1955), with Arnold Bode responsible for both exhibitions, reveals the importance of the documenta for these canonization processes: 30 artists from the Solingen collection “Bürgerstiftung für Persecuted Arts” were represented at the 1929 exhibition — in 1955 there were only 3.

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The aim is to partially reconstruct the exhibition from 1929 and to make the structure of forgetting visible through statistics, biographies and diagrams. In Solingen, the exhibition will be shown in the entire museum building, in the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków in autumn/winter 2022/23 and in Kassel in 2023.

The research and exhibition project “1929/1955” poses the question, which is much discussed in the field of remembrance culture, as to why numerous artists of a generation that developed heterogeneously and diversely until 1933 fell into oblivion after 1945? The comparative view of the “Fourth Great Art Exhibition Kassel” (1929) and the first edition of the documenta in Kassel (1955) – with the connecting curator of both exhibitions Arnold Bode – is intended to initiate and critically question the discourse on the mechanisms of canonization processes.

While the documenta took place at the same time as the Federal Horticultural Show in the year of its founding as a solitary exhibition project in the Museum Fridericianum in Kassel, today it is one of the world’s most noticed periodic large-scale exhibitions and is an influential player in the canonization processes of art history after 1945.

(Photo by OLIVER BERG / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP)

05 May 2022, North Rhine-Westphalia, Solingen. Employees of the Center for Persecuted Arts place a postcard of a painting by Anton Kerschbaumer on an interactive screen. The documenta can boost artists’ careers. But the world art exhibition can also pass artists over. A project between Kassel and Solingen is researching artists “forgotten” at the first documenta in 1955.


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