Adam Szymczyk and documenta 14

Adam Szymczyk, artistic head of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel
Adam Szymczyk, artistic head of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel (Athens, 8. April – Kassel, 17. September 2017), during the press conference on 7. June 2017 in the Kongress Palais in Kassel.

An “intellectual programme” in Basel

On 31. October 2014, just 11 months after being appointed the future head of the Documenta, Adam Szymczyk took his leave as the director of the Kunsthalle in Basel. According to an article in the local newspaper written to mark the occasion, Szymczyk was a “relatively unknown” person when he took up his post in 2003. During his time at the Basel Kunsthalle he stamped its character with an “intellectual programme […] far removed from the paintings that his predecessor Peter Pakesch so loved: in the direction of emptiness, reduction, installation work and interventions. Few of the international artists whom he presented were previously known at the knee of the Rhine. His exhibitions were always a challenge, even for people who were used to art: but a challenge that was taken up willingly by visitors. He opened up an approach to art, which was up-to-date, often political and socially relevant.” He countered the accusation of not being open to local artists by introducing a new idea, “regional exhibitions”, and including the Hochschule für Gestaltung and Kunst FHNW in the concept. [1]

Szymczyk opened his programme of exhibitions in Basel in 2004 with an exhibition entitled “Earth, Wind and Fire” by the Polish multimedia artist, Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw), with whom he had been working in the Warsaw gallery Foksal since 1999.[2] In 2005 he presented further Eastern European attitudes to art with an exhibition by the Polish sculptor, installation artist, filmmaker and photographer, Artur Żmijewski (*1966 Warsaw); in 2007 he presented the work of the Romanian artist, Dan Perjovschi; and in 2008 he presented an exhibition entitled “only those wild species that appeal to people will survive” by the Slovakian artist, Ján Mančuška. He documented critical artistic attitudes to the marketing of art with solo exhibitions by the Danish artist group, Superflex (2005), Gustav Metzger (2006), Peter Friedl (2008), Goshka Macuga and Danh Vo (both 2009), Matthieu Kleyebe Abonnenc and Adrian Melis (2013) and two group exhibitions, “How to Work” and “How to Work (More for) Less” (both 2011). Szymczyk’s thematic exhibitions dealt with the construction and reconstruction of historic events, episodes and narrations, intended to open up another way of looking at how we write history: “QUAUHNAHUAC. It’s precisely a Utopia” (2006), “Report on Probability” (2009), “Strange Comfort (Afforded by the Profession)” (2010) and “Winter Line” by the Scottish artists, Ross Birrell and David Harding (2014). His retrospectives presented the New York artist, Lee Lozano (1930-1999), the Dutch media artist Bas Jan Ader (1942-1975) and the Indian painter, graphic artist and photographer, Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990).[3] In 2011, on the occasion of an exhibition in Vienna by the Romanian-German concept artist, Daniel Knorr , the New York Times published an article about him entitled “Superstar among Curators”, maintaining that he was “something of a curatorial rock star”.[4] When Szymczyk left Basel there were mixed reactions to his challenging programme of exhibitions from artist colleagues and people working in the local cultural scene.[5] According to the TagesWoche, he was 21st in the global list of the 100 leading art curators published in 2014 by the London ArtReview. In November 2016 he had moved up to second place in the list that is compiled anonymously by a group of international experts.[6]

 

[1] Karen N. Gerig: Bye bye, Adam!, TagesWoche Basel, 31.10.2014, http://www.tageswoche.ch/de/2014_44/kultur/671978/

[2] Following an invitation by the Fundacja Galerii Foksal/Foksal Gallery Foundation in 1999 Piotr Uklański made a mosaic of broken ceramic from the ceramic factories in Ćmielów und Pruszków  for the entrance of the department store Smyk in the centre of Warsaw. In 2002, in the Galerie Foksal, he worked this into a large format presentation containing portraits of artists and colleagues in the Foundation, one of whom was Szymczyk (“Foksal Gallery”, 425 x 230 cm). cf. Ewa Gorządek: Piotr Uklański, on: culture.pl (2004), http://culture.pl/en/artist/piotr-uklanski

[3] For comprehensive information on all exhibitions in the archive of the Kunsthalle Basel, see: http://www.kunsthallebasel.ch/exhibitions/past/

[4] Ginanne Brownell: Superstar Among Curators, The New York Times, 13.6.2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/arts/14iht-rartadam14.html

[5] Karen N. Gerig: Stimmen zu Adam Szymczyks Abschied, TagesWoche Basel, 31.10.2014, http://www.tageswoche.ch/de/2014_44/kultur/671964/

Mediathek
  • Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw): Untitled (Fist), 2008. Steel pipe, paint, 1000 x 700 x 20 cm, 5. Berlin Biennale, 2008

    Ill. 1: Piotr Uklański

    Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw): Untitled (Fist), 2008. Steel pipe, paint, 1000 x 700 x 20 cm, 5. Berlin Biennale, 2008
  • Ania Molska (*1983 Prudnik): Untitled, 2008. Metal, wood, 600 x 500 x 340 cm, 5. Berlin Biennale, 2008

    Ill. 2: Ania Molska

    Ania Molska (*1983 Prudnik): Untitled, 2008. Metal, wood, 600 x 500 x 340 cm, 5. Berlin Biennale, 2008
  • Paulina Olowska (*1976 Danzig): “Collaged Stryjeńska” exhibition, 5. Berlin Biennale, Schinkel Pavilion, 13.-29.6.2008

    Ill. 3: Paulina Olowska

    Paulina Olowska (*1976 Danzig): “Collaged Stryjeńska” exhibition, 5. Berlin Biennale, Schinkel Pavilion, 13.-29.6.2008
  • The curators of documenta 14 at the press conference on 7. June 2017 in the Kongress Palais in Kassel

    Ill. 4: The curators of documenta 14

    The curators of documenta 14 at the press conference on 7. June 2017 in the Kongress Palais in Kassel
  • Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973): Grand tumeur II, 1969; Tumeurs accumulées I, 1969/70

    Ill. 5a: Alina Szapocznikow

    Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973): Grand tumeur II, 1969; Tumeurs accumulées I, 1969/70
  • Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973): Souvenir I, 1971

    Ill. 5b: Alina Szapocznikow

    Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973): Souvenir I, 1971
  • Arin Rungjang (*1975 Bangkok): 246247596248914102516... And then there were none (Democracy Monument), 2017

    Ill. 6: Arin Rungjang

    Arin Rungjang (*1975 Bangkok): 246247596248914102516... And then there were none (Democracy Monument), 2017
  • Marta Minujín (*1941 Buenos Aires): The Parthenon of Books, 2017

    Ill. 7: Marta Minujín

    Marta Minujín (*1941 Buenos Aires): The Parthenon of Books, 2017
  • Banu Cennetoğlu (*1970 Ankara): BEINGSAFEISSCARY, 2017

    Ill. 8: Banu Cennetoğlu

    Banu Cennetoğlu (*1970 Ankara): BEINGSAFEISSCARY, 2017
  • Stelios Faitakis (*1976 Athen): Fortunately absurdity is lost (but they haved hoped for much more), 2014

    Ill. 9: Stelios Faitakis

    Stelios Faitakis (*1976 Athen): Fortunately absurdity is lost (but they haved hoped for much more), 2014
  • Nikos Alexiou (1960-2011): The End, 2007

    Ill. 10: Nikos Alexiou

    Nikos Alexiou (1960-2011): The End, 2007
  • Lucas Samaras (*1936 Kastoria): Hebraic Embrace, 1991-2005

    Ill. 11: Lucas Samaras

    Lucas Samaras (*1936 Kastoria): Hebraic Embrace, 1991-2005
  • Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017): Untitled, 1993. Coal, sacks, steel

    Ill. 12: Jannis Kounellis

    Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017): Untitled, 1993. Coal, sacks, steel
  • Yiannis Bouteas (*1941 Kalamata): Untitled, 1974-80

    Ill. 13: Yiannis Bouteas

    Yiannis Bouteas (*1941 Kalamata): Untitled, 1974-80
  • Costas Tsoclis (*1930 Athens): Harpooned Fish, 1985-2000

    Ill. 14: Costas Tsoclis

    Costas Tsoclis (*1930 Athens): Harpooned Fish, 1985-2000
  • Dimitris Alithinos (*1945 Athens: A Happening, 1973

    Ill. 15: Dimitris Alithinos

    Dimitris Alithinos (*1945 Athens): A Happening, 1973
  • Vlassis Caniaris (1928-2011): Hopscotch, 1974

    Ill. 16: Vlassis Caniaris

    Vlassis Caniaris (1928-2011): Hopscotch, 1974
  • Köken Ergun (*1976 Istanbul): I, Soldier, 2005

    Ill. 17: Köken Ergun

    Köken Ergun (*1976 Istanbul): I, Soldier, 2005
  • Kendell Geers (* 1968 Johannesburg): Acropolis Redux (The Director’s Cut), 2004

    Ill. 18: Kendell Geers

    Kendell Geers (* 1968 Johannesburg): Acropolis Redux (The Director’s Cut), 2004
  • Danny Matthys (*1947 Zottegem): Brabantdam 59, Gent, Downstairs-Upstairs, 1975

    Ill. 19: Danny Matthys

    Danny Matthys (*1947 Zottegem): Brabantdam 59, Gent, Downstairs-Upstairs, 1975
  • Piotr Kowalski (1927-2004): Perspective Dhuizon, 1970

    Ill. 20: Piotr Kowalski

    Piotr Kowalski (1927-2004): Perspective Dhuizon, 1970
  • Andreas Angelidakis (*1968 Athens): Polemos, 2017

    Ill. 21: Andreas Angelidakis

    Andreas Angelidakis (*1968 Athens): Polemos, 2017
  • Zafos Xagoraris (*1963 Athens): The Welcoming Gate, 2017

    Ill. 22: Zafos Xagoraris

    Zafos Xagoraris (*1963 Athens): The Welcoming Gate, 2017
  • Marina Gioti (*1972 Athens): The Secret School, 2009

    Ill. 23: Marina Gioti

    Marina Gioti (*1972 Athens): The Secret School, 2009
  • Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw): Real Nazis, 2017

    Ill. 24: Piotr Uklański

    Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw): Real Nazis, 2017
  • Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw) with McDermott & McGough, The Greek Way, 2017

    Ill. 25a: Piotr Uklański

    Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw) with McDermott & McGough, The Greek Way, 2017
  • Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw) with McDermott & McGough: The Greek Way, 2017

    Ill. 25b: Piotr Uklański

    Piotr Uklański (*1968 Warsaw) with McDermott & McGough: The Greek Way, 2017
  • Artur Żmijewski (*1966 Warsaw): Realism, 2017

    Ill. 26: Artur Żmijewski

    Artur Żmijewski (*1966 Warsaw): Realism, 2017
  • Artur Żmijewski (*1966 Warsaw): Glimpse, 2016-17

    Ill. 27: Artur Żmijewski

    Artur Żmijewski (*1966 Warsaw): Glimpse, 2016-17
  • Michel Auder (*1945 Soissons): The Course of Empire, 2017

    Ill. 28a: Michel Auder

    Michel Auder (*1945 Soissons): The Course of Empire, 2017
  • Michel Auder (*1945 Soissons): The Course of Empire, 2017

    Ill. 28b: Michel Auder

    Michel Auder (*1945 Soissons): The Course of Empire, 2017
  • Michel Auder (*1945 Soissons): The Course of Empire, 2017

    Ill. 28c: Michel Auder

    Michel Auder (*1945 Soissons): The Course of Empire, 2017
  • Hiwa K (*1975 Sulaimaniyya): When We Were Exhaling Images, 2017

    Ill. 29: Hiwa K

    Hiwa K (*1975 Sulaimaniyya): When We Were Exhaling Images, 2017
  • Igo Diarra (*1968 Bamako) and La Medina: Installation made from objects and archive materials on Ali Farka Touré, 2014-17

    Ill. 30a: Igo Diarra and La Medina

    Igo Diarra (*1968 Bamako) and La Medina: Installation made from objects and archive materials on Ali Farka Touré, 2014-17
  • Igo Diarra (*1968 Bamako) and La Medina: Installation made from objects and archive materials on Ali Farka Touré, 2014-17

    Abb. 30b: Igo Diarra und La Medina

    Igo Diarra (*1968 Bamako) and La Medina: Installation made from objects and archive materials on Ali Farka Touré, 2014-17
  • Beau Dick (1955-2017): 21 masks from the series “Undersea Kingdom” (2016/17)

    Ill. 31: Beau Dick

    Beau Dick (1955-2017): 21 masks from the series “Undersea Kingdom” (2016/17)
  • El Hadji Sy (*1954 Dakar): Disso – Concertation, 2016

    Ill. 32a: El Hadji Sy

    El Hadji Sy (*1954 Dakar): Disso – Concertation, 2016
  • El Hadji Sy (*1954 Dakar): Disso – Concertation, 2016

    Ill. 32b: Hadji Sy

    El Hadji Sy (*1954 Dakar): Disso – Concertation, 2016
  • Guillermo Galindo (*1960 Mexiko-Stadt): Flightdestinationeuropedisastersoundbody, 2017

    Ill. 33a: Guillermo Galindo

    Guillermo Galindo (*1960 Mexiko-Stadt): Flightdestinationeuropedisastersoundbody, 2017
  • Guillermo Galindo (*1960 Mexiko-Stadt): Flightdestinationeuropedisastersoundbody, 2017

    Ill. 33b: Guillermo Galindo

    Guillermo Galindo (*1960 Mexiko-Stadt): Flightdestinationeuropedisastersoundbody, 2017
  • Guillermo Galindo (*1960 Mexiko-Stadt): Flightdestinationeuropedisastersoundbody, 2017

    Ill. 33c: Guillermo Galindo

    Guillermo Galindo (*1960 Mexiko-Stadt): Flightdestinationeuropedisastersoundbody, 2017
  • Cecilia Vicuña (*1948 Santiago de Chile): Quipu Gut, 2017

    Ill. 34: Cecilia Vicuña

    Cecilia Vicuña (*1948 Santiago de Chile): Quipu Gut, 2017
  • Aboubakar Fofana (*1967 Bamako): Fundi (Uprising), 2017

    Ill. 35: Aboubakar Fofana

    Aboubakar Fofana (*1967 Bamako): Fundi (Uprising), 2017
  • Miriam Cahn (*1949 Basel): KOENNTEICHSEIN, 2015-17

    Ill. 36: Miriam Cahn

    Miriam Cahn (*1949 Basel): KOENNTEICHSEIN, 2015-17
  • Stanley Whitney (*1946 Philadelphia): various works like “For Joy and Grief”, “Homa, Roma” etc. in a cabinet, 2017

    Ill. 37: Stanley Whitney

    Stanley Whitney (*1946 Philadelphia): various works like “For Joy and Grief”, “Homa, Roma” etc. in a cabinet, 2017
  • Marie Cool Fabio Balducci (*1961 Valenciennes, *1964 Ostra): Untitled 2003-2011

    Ill. 38: Marie Cool Fabio Balducci

    Marie Cool Fabio Balducci (*1961 Valenciennes, *1964 Ostra): Untitled 2003-2011
  • Maria Eichhorn (*1962 Bamberg): Rose Valland Institute, 2017

    Ill. 39a: Maria Eichhorn

    Maria Eichhorn (*1962 Bamberg): Rose Valland Institute, 2017
  • Maria Eichhorn (*1962 Bamberg):  Rose Valland Institute, 2017

    Ill. 39b: Maria Eichhorn

    Maria Eichhorn (*1962 Bamberg): Rose Valland Institute, 2017
  • Pélagie Gbaguidi (*1965 Dakar): The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone (2017)

    Ill. 40a: Pélagie Gbaguidi

    Pélagie Gbaguidi (*1965 Dakar): The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone (2017)
  • Pélagie Gbaguidi (*1965 Dakar): The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone (2017)

    Ill. 40b: Pélagie Gbaguidi

    Pélagie Gbaguidi (*1965 Dakar): The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone (2017)
  • Yervant Gianikian (*1942 Merano) and Angela Ricci Lucchi (*1942 Lugo di Romagna)

    Ill. 41a: Y. Gianikian/A. Ricci Lucchi

    Yervant Gianikian (*1942 Merano) and Angela Ricci Lucchi (*1942 Lugo di Romagna)
  • Yervant Gianikian (*1942 Merano) and Angela Ricci Lucchi (*1942 Lugo di Romagna)

    Ill. 41b: Y. Gianikian/A. R. Lucchi

    Yervant Gianikian (*1942 Merano) and Angela Ricci Lucchi (*1942 Lugo di Romagna)
  • Nilima Sheikh (*1945 Neu-Delhi): Terrain: Carrying Across, Leaving Behind, 2016-17

    Ill. 42: Nilima Sheikh

    Nilima Sheikh (*1945 Neu-Delhi): Terrain: Carrying Across, Leaving Behind, 2016-17
  • Annie Sprinkle (*1954 Philadelphia) and Beth Stephens (*1960 Montgomery, West Virginia): Free Sidewalk Sex Clinic, 2017

    Ill. 43: A. Sprinkle/B. Stephens

    Annie Sprinkle (*1954 Philadelphia) and Beth Stephens (*1960 Montgomery, West Virginia): Free Sidewalk Sex Clinic, 2017
  • Sergio Zevallos (*1962 Lima): A War Machine, 2017

    Ill. 44a: Sergio Zevallos

    Sergio Zevallos (*1962 Lima): A War Machine, 2017
  • Sergio Zevallos (*1962 Lima): A War Machine, 2017

    Ill. 44b: Sergio Zevallos

    Sergio Zevallos (*1962 Lima): A War Machine, 2017
  • Elisabeth Wild (*1922 Wien): Fantasias, 2016-17

    Ill. 45 Elisabeth Wild

    Elisabeth Wild (*1922 Wien): Fantasias, 2016-17
  • Manthia Diawara, An Opera of the World, 2017

    Ill. 46: Manthia Diawara

    Manthia Diawara, An Opera of the World, 2017
  • Agnes Denes
 (*1938 Budapest): The Living Pyramid, 2015/2017

    Ill. 47: Agnes Denes

    Agnes Denes
 (*1938 Budapest): The Living Pyramid, 2015/2017
  • Ibrahim Mahama (*1987 Tamale): Check Point Sekondi Loco. 1901–2030, 2016/17

    Ill. 48: Ibrahim Mahama

    Ibrahim Mahama (*1987 Tamale): Check Point Sekondi Loco. 1901–2030, 2016/17