Pencils, key chains and stickers are classic promotional items. Even for a large art exhibition like documenta, these small mementos and souvenirs are indispensable. At documenta 6 (1977), for example, a tile carrying the logo was one of the first merchandising products ever to be sold. As the number with the documenta exhibitions increased, so did the variety of merchandising and promotional items. There was no limit to creativity.


The documenta archive keeps these articles in the documenta collection of the respective exhibition. They are listed in the finding aids among the terms printed products (d5-10), merchandise (d11) and advertising material (d12). In addition to the classics among the merchandise products, little curiosities can also be found there. One example is the small 5.5 x 5.5 cm white paper sachets printed on both sides with the swan logo of DOCUMENTA IX as well as the location and duration of the exhibition (Kassel 13.6 - 20.9. '92). Due to the shape and size of the sachet, the content can be developed quickly: fine sugar. This is also confirmed on one side of the packaging below the logo. On the other side, the manufacturing company is mentioned in the same place: the Hamburg coffee roastery and company group J. J. Darboven, which has sold the sachets throughout Germany. The company was prepared to grant "companies or the Verkehrsverein Kassel Service GmbH 10% discount in kind", as recorded in the protocol of the 3rd meeting of the documenta advertising team on August 14th, 1991 (documenta archiv, AA, d09, folder 26).


How the idea of using sachets of sugar as advertising items came about can only be guessed. What is certain is, however, that the idea for the swan logo was born during a dinner of the team around curator Jan Hoet (1936-2014) in late summer 1989 along the Fulda river bank. The discussion about the motif was interrupted by a "rushing swan ploughing through the water as it landed," and so the logo was born, explained Oliver Freigang, member of the DOCUMENTA IX press office, in a letter (documenta archiv, AA, d09, folder 26). So why shouldn't the idea of the sugar sachet as a promotional item have been born over a shared cup of coffee too?


Natalie Schmidt