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On the occasion of the Beuys anniversary, the documenta archiv, as a guest of the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, is curating a studio exhibition on the photographer Dieter Schwerdtle (1952-2009) in the rooms of the Neue Galerie.

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The Cold War, the documenta and the GDR

© documenta archiv / Foto: Heinrich Poradowski

Exhibition view of "Ringer" by Jo Jastram, documenta 6 (1977)

From the documenta archiv #15


Thursday, December 9, 2021, 6:30 pm


Venue: Rotunda of the Museum Fridericianum


Admission free

During the Cold War, the documenta was instrumentalized as a bulwark against the East. "50 km from the edge of the free world," as Karl Branner, the mayor of Kassel, put it in 1963, there was a consensus: the "unfree" art of socialist realism had no place in Kassel.

Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, this attitude still characterizes the studies of the GDR. To this day, little has been done to determine how the various teams of artists around Arnold Bode, Manfred Schneckenburger, Jan Hoet, or Catherine David looked at the GDR between 1955 and 1997, under what world-political conditions this occurred, and who actually knew about the "wild things" that happened in Kassel in other German cities like East Berlin, Karl-Marx-Stadt, Leipzig, or Rostock.

Based on current research findings, the lecture will explore new aspects of the exciting history of the relationship between documenta and the GDR and provide insights into its art-political dimension.  


Dr. Alexia Pooth (Berlin/Potsdam) is an art historian and curator. After holding positions at the National Museums in Berlin and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, she was a research associate at the German Historical Museum Berlin (DHM) between 2019 and 2021. As part of an international curatorial team here, she prepared the exhibition "documenta. Politics and Art"running until January 9, 2022. In this project she curated the section "documenta and the East / GDR".