Documenta archive

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Culture House Dock 4
Shelf in the documenta archiv

The founding of the documenta archiv goes back to an idea by Arnold Bode . The documenta archiv began its work on June 1, 1961 with the city of Kassel as the sponsor. It is located in Dock 4, the cultural center of the city of Kassel. Since January 1st, 2016 it has been part of the documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH .


The documenta archiv is a facility for the archiving, documentation and scientific processing of text and image sources for modern and contemporary art. The focus is on the history of the documenta exhibitions. The archive was founded in 1961 and houses a file archive that stores documents from past exhibitions, a special library and extensive press, image and audiovisual media collections. Estates complement the inventory.

In April 2015, the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art announced that it would support the expansion of the archive into an independent institute with an annual contribution of € 500,000. The city of Kassel will pay the same amount, which will also provide the rooms for an institute. The funds available will mainly be used to finance staff positions.

On March 29, 2017, the documenta archiv developed a new look with a new logo and its own font.


File archive: In the course of the preparations for the respective documenta or its reception, an abundance of materials such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, art catalogs, exhibition plans as well as image and sound material, etc. These documents, the files of the various exhibition managements of the documenta, form the core of the documenta archive.

Media collection: The media collection contains more than 39,000 analogue and 42,000 digital recordings as well as 5,000 videos and 650 audios that deal with the works and artists of the documenta exhibitions.

Press and printed matter collection: The press archive contains around 45,000 press kits and 660 files on individual artists, including around 250,000 systematically collected newspaper clippings, 150,000 invitation cards and leaflets.

Library: The documenta archiv houses one of the most comprehensive specialist libraries for modern art in Germany. The focus of the collection is on the period after 1945. The library comprises a total of around 120,000 volumes, including 71,000 exhibition catalogs. Particular attention is paid to so-called “ gray literature ” in the library . The library also has around 120 current periodicals on contemporary art.

Proceedings and bequests: The documenta archiv also collects papers, including a. most of Arnold Bode's estate . In May 2006 the collection was expanded to include the estate of the artist Harry Kramer . The inventory consists of personal items, models, writings, sketches and materials relating to the artist necropolis . The estate is kept in the Aschrotthaus in Kassel. In January 2020, Bazon Brock donated his bequest to the documenta archiv.


The documenta archiv stores the documents that were created during the documenta exhibitions. In addition, publications, image and text documents that are related to them are collected. They are saved, recorded, digitized and published according to the given possibilities. The documenta archiv offers - taking into account legal property rights - the possibility to research the documenta exhibitions and the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Event series "From the documenta archiv"

In October 2016 the series of lectures “From the documenta archiv” started. Once a quarter, new scientific findings that artists and researchers gain from their work in the archive are presented to an art-interested audience:

# 1 »documenta 1955 - The film that was never made«. A demonstration by Visus-Vision UG (October 16, 2016)

# 2 How photography came to documenta. Lecture by Klaus Honnef, Bonn (April 27, 2017)

# 3 Hans Hillmann "Flypaper". A "comic concert" with the yam yabasha ensemble, Berlin (November 5, 2017)

# 4 documenta and the double: 'The Pregnant' by Emy Roeder . Lecture by Liza Weber, Sussex (February 8, 2018)

# 5 Outsider Art 1972. Lecture by Thomas Röske, Heidelberg (May 24, 2018)

# 6 documenta 1968 - a hot summer? Lecture by Tim Pickartz, Paderborn (August 9, 2018)

# 7 Please take off your shoes! Participation and instruction at the documenta. Lecture by Annemarie Kok, Groningen, Netherlands (November 8, 2018)

# 8 The checkered history of Lehmbruck's "Kneeling" . Lecture by Kathryn Floyd, Auburn, USA (February 7, 2019)

# 9 Fritz Winter. documenta artist from the very beginning. Lecture by Anna Rühl, Munich (May 16, 2019)

# 10 How much Bauhaus is there in documenta? The launch of the virtual exhibition with Martin Groh, Harald Kimpel and Birgit Jooss, Kassel (August 15, 2019)

# 11 About the dream of becoming a documenta artist ... To the artist applications in the documenta archiv. Lecture by Christian Saehrendt, Thun, Switzerland (November 28, 2019)

# 12 Cultures of Showing: The documenta as a venue for ecological debates. Lecture by Anne-Kathrin Winkler-Hanns, Wolfsburg (February 6, 2020)

Exhibition series "From the documenta archiv"

In October 2017, the documenta archiv started a new series of exhibitions that takes place four times a year in the archive. Using photographs, archives and posters, various aspects of the history of the documenta exhibitions from 1955 to the present day are told.

# 1 theater of the spectacle. Photographs by Bernd Schlake (October 20 - December 22, 2017)

# 2 Joseph Beuys and his initiative for direct democracy (March 1 - May 27, 2018)

# 3 Journey to the planet Ars - artist portraits by Heinz Günter Mebusch (June 7th - August 3rd, 2018)

# 4 documenta 1968 - A hot summer (August 9 - November 2, 2018)

# 5 "Please take off your shoes." - Participative art at documenta 5 (November 8, 2018 - February 8, 2019)

# 6 Controversy - Students at the University of Paderborn do research in the documenta archiv (October 31, 2019 - March 13, 2020)


  • Anna Cestelli Guidi: La "documenta" the Kassel: percorsi dell´arte contemporanea. Milan 1997.
  • Hans Eichel: 60 years of documenta. The local history of globalization. Berlin 2015.
  • Anja Eppert: The Documenta and the public space: a presentation based on selected artistic works, their effects and interactions in a historical context. Kassel 2014.
  • Michael Glasmeier , Karin Stengel (Eds.): 50 Years / Years documenta 1955-2005. Archive in motion. Göttingen 2005.
  • Walter Grasskamp : Myth documenta - a picture book on art history . In: Kunstforum International. Volume 49, Cologne 1982.
  • Birgit Jooss : The documenta archiv on the way to the documenta institute , in: “ The documenta 14. A look back ahead. Conference of the Evangelical Academy Hofgeismar from June 8 to 10, 2018. Evangelical Press Service Documentation No. 38 “ , Frankfurt am Main, September 18, 2018 , pp. 54–59
  • Harald Kimpel : documenta. Myth and Reality, Cologne 1999 Harald Kimpel: documenta. The overview. Cologne 2002.
  • Harald Kimpel (Ed.): Documenta emotional. Memories of the world art exhibitions. Marburg 2012.
  • Harald Kimpel: UTOPIEdocumenta. Unrealized projects from the history of the world art exhibition. Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Vienna 2015. ISBN 978-3-903004-36-8 .
  • Kirschenmann, Johannes and Florian Matzner (eds.): Documenta Kassel, Sculpture Münster, Venice Biennale , Munich 2007.
  • Roland Nachtigäller , Friedhelm Scharf, Karin Stengel: Resubmission d5. A survey of the archive on documenta 1972. Kassel / Ostfildern 2001 ISBN 3-7757-1121-X
  • Alfred Nemeczek: Documenta, Hamburg 2002.
  • Dirk Schwarze: Milestones: documenta 1 to 13: works of art and artists. Berlin 2012.
  • Dirk Schwarze: The career of an exhibition - 60 years of documenta. In: Hessian State Center for Political Education: Focus on Hessen. Wiesbaden 2015.
  • Karin Stengel: ... after the documenta: 50 years of the documenta archive for the art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Berlin 2011.
  • Dieter Westecker: documenta documents 1955–1968. Kassel 1972.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Anniversary present. Kassel receives 'Documenta Institute'. In: FAZ of April 17, 2015, p. 13.