An Indonesian artist collective has been named the artistic director of the 2022 edition of documenta.
The Jakarta-based group ruangrupa was chosen from a list of ten candidates by a unanimous choice of the exhibition’s committee. Two members of the group were in the German city of Kassel for the announcement by the prestigious exhibition, which was steeped in a financial scandal when documenta 14 closed in 2017. It is only the second non-European or American to take on artistic leadership.
The group is made of ten core members, though Belgian curator Philipe Pirotte, who was representative of documenta 15’s finding committee, explained that there are more involved. “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,” said Pirotte in a statement. “[ruangrupa’s] curatorial approach is based on an international network of local community-based art organizations. At a time when innovative strength particularly stems from independent organizations active on the community level, it seems only logical to offer this collective approach a platform with documenta.”
Each candidate had been invited to develop a concept for the prestigious quinquennial exhibition, which is due to take place from June 18 to September 25, 2022.
ruangrupa, which is loosely translated from Indonesia as “a space for art,” was founded in Jakarta in 2000. The collective participated in documenta 14 as a part of its internet radio station. Recently, the collective took part in the 2018 Gwangju Biennale and curated Sonsbeek in 2016 in the Netherlands. Its founding member, the artist and curator Ade Darmawan, is credited with reinventing the Jakarta Biennial and raising its international profile.
Ruangrupa said in a statement: “We want to create a globally oriented, cooperative, interdisciplinary art and culture platform that will have an impact beyond the 100 days of documenta 15.” Noting the origins of documenta after World War II, the group said: “If documenta was launched in 1955 to heal war wounds, why shouldn’t we focus documenta 15 on today’s injuries, especially ones rooted in colonialism, capitalism, or patriarchal structures, and contrast them with partnership-based models that enable people to have a different view of the world?”
The last edition of documenta took place in both Kassel and Athens under the leadership of Polish art critic and curator Adam Szymczyk, He came under fire for going over budget, mainly caused by organizing part of the exhibition in Athens, Greece.
“The last half year was a difficult time,” Kassel’s mayor Christian Geselle acknowledged at the press conference today. The city of Kassel and the state of Hesse had to provide €8 million ($9.5 million) in emergency loan guarantees at the last minute to the beleaguered exhibition. A few months after the documenta closed, an independent audit revealed that the deficit was caused by overspending at documenta’s secondary venue in Athens. Former Sony Music executive Wolfgang Orthmayr succeeded the embattled former CEO Annette Kulenkampff last fall, after she agreed to step down from her post a year before her contract expired. Under her leadership, documenta 14 racked up a deficit of €5.4 million ($6.3 million).
The quinquennial exhibition was founded in 1955, initially to show “degenerate” art that had been censored by the National Socialists, and has maintained an important political mandate since, growing to become one of the most important exhibitions worldwide.
Hessian Minister of Higher Education, Research and the Arts, Angela Dorn said the decision to pick the Asian collective was informed by the need for social debate: “With the selection, documenta is consciously giving room to the non-European view of the art world and bringing the world to Hesse in a completely new way.”
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