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Documenta 15 postponement increasingly likely, general director says

Travel restrictions could derail preparations, making 2022 date impossible, Sabine Schormann says

Documenta 15 is currently scheduled to open in June 2022 Photo: Nicolas Wefers, 2020

It is becoming increasingly likely that the 15th edition of Documenta, the influential contemporary art show mounted every five years in the German city of Kassel, will have to be postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the general director Sabine Schormann.

Documenta 15 is currently scheduled to take place from 8 June-25 September 2022 and is to be curated by Ruangrupa, an Indonesian art cooperative. Schormann said in an interview with the radio channel Deutschlandfunk Kultur that a final decision on whether to postpone the exhibition will not be made until this summer.

“We are watching this continually and re-evaluating constantly,” Schormann said. “If things continue like this until the end of the year, as some are speculating, with absolutely no travel—meaning for example we can’t organise things or have people working on the site—then it won’t be possible” to stage the show in 2022 as planned, she said.

In a statement released this afternoon in response to the Deutschlandfunk Kultur report, Schormann added that, “Preparations for documenta 15 remain on track, and the entire team is highly motivated. As communicated in December, the only responsible approach is to closely monitor the developments of the coronavirus pandemic in order to be able to decide on further steps in summer 2021. At the moment, we are confident that the Covid-19 vaccines will enable a return to a life as normal as possible in the near future.”

While much can be organised over video conference, the next stage of the preparation requires artists from around the world to travel to Kassel for long periods of time for collective work at the location of the exhibition, Schormann told Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

Ruangrupa’s concept is rooted in local participation and relies on cooperation over several months in Kassel. It would make “absolutely no sense” to go ahead with Documenta in 2022 if this could only take place in a “streamlined form that would not convey the spirit,” she said.

Ruangrupa has said it plans to work closely with the Kassel community and collaborate with technologists and economists to focus on current issues such as alternative education and regenerative economic models. The last edition of Documenta, in 2017, drew 891,500 visitors to Kassel.

UPDATE: This article was updated to include a new statement by Sabine Schormann