Prosecutor drops investigation into Documenta financial management

The exhibition's manager, Annette Kulenkampff, welcomes prosecutor’s decision

Documenta 14 © Mathias Voelzke

The Kassel state prosecutor's office has dropped an investigation into misuse of funds by the management of the 2017 edition of Documenta, which overshot its budget and caused a financial shortfall of €5.4m.

The investigation into Annette Kulenkampff’s financial management of Documenta was prompted by a legal complaint issued by Kassel city council members of the right-wing Alternativ für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany). The prosecutor found no evidence of embezzlement, a statement says.

“The mere fact that some projects don’t comply with the tastes of some observers or—in their view—are not suited to the goal of promoting the event, doesn’t meet the conditions for criminal breach of trust,” the prosecutor says.

For the first time in Documenta’s 62-year history, the 2017 edition of the quinquennial contemporary art exhibition was spread over two locations; Kassel and Athens. Overspending in Athens caused the budget shortfall and forced the company’s shareholders, the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse, to step in with emergency loan guarantees.

Kulenkampff, the managing director of Documenta, left her post last November—a year before her contract ended—in “mutual agreement” with the company’s shareholders. She said she had repeatedly tried to warn shareholders about the looming deficit at Documenta.

She welcomed the prosecutor’s decision to drop the investigation, saying “it leaves the path clear for a successful future for Documenta. It was and remains important to me to prevent any damage to Documenta.” In a statement, she described the artistic director Adam Szymczyk’s decision to hold the event in two locations as “just as courageous as it was risky.”

Kulenkampff’s successor, Sabine Schormann, takes up her post on 1 0November. A finding commission has been appointed to find an artistic director for the 2022 edition of the quinquennial show by early 2019.