In a letter, the painter Rupprecht Geiger (1908-2009) asked art historian Werner Haftmann (1912-1999) to consider his work for documenta III. He had heard that artists would be commissioned this time to create new pieces for Kassel. Indeed, for the first time, exhibition director Arnold Bode (1900-1977) approached artists selected for the year 1964 with the request that they develop works of art especially for the site. During the planning phase, Bode referred to this section as “Musée-Pilote” – later as “Image and sculpture in space” – and contacted artists such as Sam Francis (1923-1994), Emilio Vedova (1919-2006), and Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902-1968).

 

While a painter like Nay had to be convinced to create a new site-specific work, Geiger readily offered to engage in this new approach. He sensed an opportunity to finally “realize the very large format works so important” to him. In his letter, he made Haftmann aware of two large-scale pieces that he had previously completed for the canteen at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. Although the “Kunst am Bau” practice had been implemented since the Weimar Republic, it was a new approach for documenta. The first two exhibitions in 1955 and 1959 had both solely displayed existing works that were on loan.

 

Haftmann sent Geiger’s letter to Bode on October 14, 1963, since – as he wrote – there was already an agreement that he would be included in “Musée-Pilote.” On the same day, he also replied to Geiger, stating that they indeed wished to “encourage artists to do something for a particular spatial situation and create work on site,” but that these were not typical commissions as the financial situation did not allow it. He suggested he contact Bode to find out how to proceed.

 

Geiger, who was not present at the first documenta, had previously exhibited two of his abstract paintings at the second documenta. For the third documenta 1964, in addition to a small piece from 1961, he in the end showed the painting “Goulimime,” a 4 x 2.5-meter canvas in bright hues of orange, red, and magenta. It was created especially for documenta and can be seen today in Kassel’s Neue Galerie.

 

Birgit Jooss