At first glance, the 4-page document of the committee for painting of September 1967, already slightly brown in color, with signs of usage and handwritten revisions, seems inconspicuous. A closer look, however, reveals a story about the selection process of artists and works of art for the fourth documenta in 1968.

 

In preparation for the exhibition, there were four working committees in addition to the documenta council: ambience, painting, sculpture and graphics/objects. These working committees discussed which artists were to be presented in the relevant departments at documenta and proposed them to the documenta council. Arnold Rüdlinger (1919-1967), director of the Kunsthalle in Basel at the time, was initially acting chairman and later elected chairman of the committee for painting, recognizable by the fact, that his name can be found next to the title of the document.

 

The first version was prepared in June 1967 by another member of the committee Jean Leering (1934-2005) in form of a list, names are enumerated alphabetically and arranged according to countries, such as USA, England or Germany. These are the artists who have already been selected and approved by the documenta council; and proposals of artists whose participation are to be discussed again to be finally shown in the department of painting at documenta 4.

 

The document, originally produced with a typewriter, is preserved as a copy of a spirit duplicator print containing additional handwritten comments with ink and felt pen. The comments in green are unmistakably by Arnold Bode (1900-1977). The abbreviations for the third and fourth documenta as well as the combinations of numbers are easily recognizable. The meaning of the numbers remains mysterious for the moment. It is presumably a comparison of the artists participating in the department of painting to date - documenta 3: 141 and documenta 4: 54 - and the selected works - documenta 3: 695 and documenta 4: 350. Whether Bode advocated this decline in the number of participating artists or whether he wanted to express the exact opposite with this comparison cannot be determined from this document.

 

The names, notes, and question marks in blue ink aren’t from Bode's pen. This can only be another participant of the meeting on September 9, 1967 adding his own remarks on the occasion of the meeting. The transcript of the meeting also states that this list should be discussed again in the committee in mid-October so that the result can subsequently be presented to the documenta council. This list of artists used by the working committee exists in the records of the documenta archiv - in addition to the presented copy - in several copies with other handwritten notes on it. In their diversity, the documents clearly show how much preliminary discussion was necessary in the selection of suitable exhibits.

 

Alexandra Winterhoff