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Artist Collective Ruangrupa to Curate Documenta 15

Above: The international finding committee and representatives of ruangrupa: Frances Morris, Philippe Pirotte, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Amar Kanwar, Jochen Volz, Gabi Ngcobo, Ute Meta Bauer, Charles Esche, Julia Sarisetiati (Ruangrupa), Ade Darmawan (Ruangrupa), and Farid Rakun (Ruangrupa). Photo: Nicolas Wefers.
Above: The international finding committee and representatives of ruangrupa: Frances Morris, Philippe Pirotte, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Amar Kanwar, Jochen Volz, Gabi Ngcobo, Ute Meta Bauer, Charles Esche, Julia Sarisetiati (Ruangrupa), Ade Darmawan (Ruangrupa), and Farid Rakun (Ruangrupa). Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

KASSEL, GERMANY—Documenta has selected the Indonesian collective ruangrupa, which was founded in 2000 by a group of artists in Jakarta, to curate its fifteenth edition, which will be held in Kassel over the course of one hundred days, from June 18, 2020 to September 25, 2020. The announcement marks the first time the artistic direction of the quinquennial will be led by a collective; the exhibition has also never before been helmed by a curator from Asia.

The collective, whose name loosely translates as “a space for art” or “a space form,” was represented by Farid Rakun and Ade Darmawan at a press conference that took place today in Kassel. The group has elected ten members to serve as the core curatorial team. “We want to create a globally oriented, cooperative, interdisciplinary art and culture platform that will have an impact beyond the one hundred days of Documenta 15,” Rakun and Darmawan said in a statement.

“Our curatorial approach aims at a different community-oriented model of resource usage—economical, but also taking ideas, knowledge, programs, and innovations into account. 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 group runs an art space in South Jakarta that hosts exhibitions, festivals, and other programming. It has participated in exhibitions such as the 2002 and 2008 editions of the Gwangju Biennale, the 2005 Istanbul Biennale, the 2011 Singapore Biennale, the 2012 Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, and the 2014 São Paulo Bienal. The collective also curated the Netherlands’ Sonsbeek, “TRANSaction,” in 2016 and founded GUDSKUL, an educational and networking project for creatives looking for collaborators, last year. At Documenta 14, ruangrupa presented an internet radio station in partner with the decentralized radio project Every Time A Ear di Soun.

Commenting on the appointment, search committee member Philippe Pirotte, director of the Städelschule and director of Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, said: “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. Their curatorial approach is based on an international network of local community-based art organizations. We are eager to see how ruangrupa will develop a concrete project for and from Kassel. 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.”

In addition to Pirotte, the search committee comprised Ute Meta Bauer, founding director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore; Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven; Amar Kanwar, artist and documentary filmmaker in New Delhi; Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern in London; Gabi Ngcobo, curator of the Tenth Berlin Biennale; Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of the Showroom in London; and Jochen Volz, director of Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.

Among those at the conference who praised the appointment were Hortensia Völckers, director of the German Federal Cultural Foundation; Angela Dorn, Hessian minister of higher education, research, and the arts; and Sabine Schormann, general director of Documenta. Kassel’s mayor, Christian Geselle, also spoke and acknowledged that “the last half year was a difficult time” for the exhibition.

For Documenta 14, artistic director Adam Szymczyk expanded the exhibition to Athens. The unprecedented move was considered a new trajectory for Documenta. However, shortly after the exhibition closed, it was swept up in controversy over a budget shortfall. The show ran up a deficit of more than $8 million, which prompted the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse to provide emergency loans.

Independent auditors of the exhibition attributed its overspending to the programming in Athens—the company recorded a loss of about $6.4 million during its run in the city. While the curatorial leadership and artists who participated in the event spoke out in defense of the quinquennial, CEO Annette Kulenkampff ultimately resigned from her post one year before her contract ended, and was succeeded by Schormann.

February 27, 2019