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Celebrating Art's Power to Shock

Docuemnta mecom

Source: MECOM

The world's most important contemporary art show, Germany's Documenta, turns 60 and this week's celebrations include concerts, exhibitions and a touch of controversy too.


The exhibition takes place every five years and its presentation of the latest developments in contemporary art draws visitors from across the globe to Kassel, a large central German town.


The show retains its power to shock, not only with the art it presents but its changing format too. The next Documenta in 2017 will be hosted in Kassel and Athens, a city where all things German are not particularly popular at the moment.


When Polish curator Adam Szymczyk announced last year that the Documenta would open and partially take place in Greece's capital, an outcry broke out in the exhibition's home town.


The twin locations would mean competition for Kassel, people said. Also, given the currently tense relations between Greece and Germany, what could the title "Learning from Athens" mean?


These questions are being revisited in light of the Greek crisis, in which Germany is pushing for more austerity in Greece in return for further handouts, and because of the show's important milestone. This week, to mark the first Documenta which opened in July 1955, people in Kassel are going to concerts, performances and viewing works by Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers.


It is unclear - traditionally a closely guarded secret - what works will be on show in 2017. All that is known so far is that the exhibition will open in Athens in April and show as many works as those on display in Kassel, where the co-exhibition will open in June. Then twin exhibitions will last all summer.


The decision to include Athens was widely questioned. Some journalists writing in the German media said the show's directors were trying too hard to come up with original formats; others called the move a "pitiful gesture of solidarity."


Annette Kulenkampff, the Documenta's chief executive, was unfazed. "This is an exhibition that has managed to mobilize the masses for over 60 years," she told Handelsblatt Global Edition. "But it does so without being ingratiating; it always seeks to feature difficult subjects."


Some observers argued that the Documenta's idea was a good one. 


Dakis Joannou, a major Greek collector of European and American contemporary art, said the show has to distinguish itself from the numerous other art events that take place worldwide.


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