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Indonesian Artist Collective Ruangrupa to Curate Documenta’s 15th Edition

This is the first time that an artist collective, and curators from Asia, have been picked to direct the prestigious exhibition

Ruangrupa, 2019. Courtesy: Gudskul/Jin Panji

The art exhibition Documenta, which takes place every five years in the German city of Kassel, has named the Indonesian art collective Ruangrupa to curate its 15th edition. It is scheduled to take place in 2022, from 18 June to 25 September. The appointment is a double-first for the exhibition: the first time that an artist collective has been named to direct Documenta, and the first time that the curators have come from Asia.

Ruangrupa members Farid Rakun and Ade Darmawan commented: ‘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.’

‘We have appointed Ruangrupa because they have demonstrated the ability to appeal to various communities, incuding groups that go beyond pure art audiences, and to promote local commitment and participation,’ Philippe Pirotte, director of Frankfurt’s Städelschule and a member of the search committee, commented. ‘Their curatorial approach is based on an international network of local community-based art organisations.’

Ruangrupa, whose name loosely translates as ‘a space for art’, was founded in 2000 in Jakarta, Indonesia. They have previously participated in the 2002 and 2018 editions of the Gwangju Biennale, the 2016 Singapore Biennale and the 2005 Istanbul Biennale, among others. Ruangrupa also curated the 2016 edition of the art exhibition Sonsbeek in Arnhem, the Netherlands.

Picked from a list of 10 candidates, Ruangrupa was a unanimous choice for Documenta’s committee. Alongside Pirotte, the selection committee for the 15th edition included Ute Meta Bauer, director of Singapore’s Centre for Contemporary Art, Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, artist Amar Kanwar, Tate Modern director Frances Morris, curator Gabi Ngcobo, London’s Showroom director Elvira Dyangani Ose and Jochen Volz, director of the Pinacoteca do Estado in São Paulo.

The last edition of Documenta in 2017 – directed by Adam Szymczyk and split between Kassel and Athens – triggered substantial controversy, scrutiny and allegations of financial misconduct. The exhibition’s Athens location created a budget deficit of EUR€7.6 million, with the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse stepping in to bail Documenta out. Former Documenta CEO Annette Kulenkampff was eventually cleared of criminal wrongdoing in relation to the 2017 edition, following an investigation into the budget shortfall.

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