Since its inception, the Kassel “documenta” has been the largest and also the most esteemed exhibition of contemporary art in the world.
The very extensive volume of material that is regularly generated on the occasion of this exhibition (which now is held every five years) prompted Arnold Bode, the documenta’s founder, to create an archive in 1961 expressly for the documenta exhibition. The heart of the Archive’s collection comes from the files and materials of the documenta organization.
Additionally, the Archive houses one of Germany ’s most significant specialty libraries for art of the 20th and 21st centuries. A continually expanding video and image archive is also part of the collection as are the independently organized bequests of Arnold Bode and Harry Kramer.
The documenta Archive thus provides visitors with a modern research facility containing a broad spectrum of material. With the expert assistance of the Archive’s highly experienced staff, scholars and lay visitors can research and educate themselves in a quiet and comfortable setting using original historical source material as well as the latest journals and publications.
The library database contains bibliographic references to books, exhibition catalogues, magazines and brochures on the documenta and its artists and on contemporary art in general. The archive database allows you to do a cross-media search involving image material, newspaper articles and videos. Since this database is still under development, you can currently only access image material and press articles on documenta 1-5 and selected video footage of the series of lectures “100 days, 100 guests”, which took place at documenta 10.
The File Archive
The comprehensive collection of files and materials assembled since 1961 in the course of organising and carrying out the documenta exhibitions represents the heart of the documenta Archive. These original working papers are complemented by a large, systematically ordered collection of newspaper clippings dealing with the documenta. A further collection of archived invitations and flyers provides information regarding artistic events which otherwise are exceedingly difficult to research. This broad-ranging and unique documentation of the history and surroundings of the documenta exhibition and general repository of information on art of the 20 th and 21 st centuries is available to interested lay visitors as well as scholars and experts in the field. An appointment must be made to arrange access to these materials. Copies can not be made of the original files. 250,000 newspaper clippings, 150,000 invitations, 1,383 file folders in 533 archive boxes.
Research library for art of the 20th and 21th centuries
With its collection of books, exhibition catalogues, art magazines and other writings, the documenta Archive possesses one of the most extensive speciality libraries for modern art in Germany . In addition to the large alphabetically ordered area with literature on specific artists, library visitors may also make use of special departments dealing with various artistic genres, motifs, styles, institutions, collections and aesthetic theories of modern art. In acquiring new material, particular emphasis is placed on exhibition catalogues and other “grey literature” which is subsequently difficult to obtain, being unavailable from ordinary book-selling outlets.
The media archive collects images in 35 mm slide format and Ektachromes, principally in connection with works and events by artists from the various documenta exhibitions. An extensive collection of black and white photographs concentrates principally on the documenta exhibitions 1, 7, 8 and 10. A photograph collection of artist portraits is currently in development. All documentary photographs and slides may be viewed and can be lent out for reproduction purposes for a utilisation fee. Inquiries regarding prices and conditions may be made by telephone or in writing.