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The documenta archiv continually works to improve the documentation and digitization aiming to increase the digital and on-site access to our holdings.

documenta archiv

Untere Karlsstr. 4, 34117 Kassel
Phone +49 561 70 72 73 100
e-mail archiv@documenta.de


Tuesday to Friday
From 9.00 am til 4.00 pm
With appointment via lesesaal[at]documenta.de

T h e d o c
u m e n t a
a r c h i v

The documenta archiv


Teaser: "unfolding an exhibition – the many facets of the documenta archiv", February 2020


The documenta archiv was founded in 1961 by Arnold Bode and is dedicated to the archiving, documentation and research on modern and contemporary art and its sources. The focus is on the documenta exhibitions since 1955, curatorial practices and documentary strategies. In addition to the documenta materials, the archiv’s ressources include rich press collections, image and audiovisual media, a precious art library as well as numerous curator’s and artist‘s estates. The documenta archiv is part of the documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH, with the City of Kassel and the State of Hesse as shareholders. As a member of the association „Arbeitskreis selbstständiger Kultur-Institute e.V.“ (AsKI) the archive pursues academic projects along its own collections and cooperates with national and international universities, scientific and cultural institutes. In cooperation with the curatorial and technical staff of the gGmbH the archive realizes exhibitions on artistic and archival positions and related didactic programs.


© documenta archiv

Note on the employment of Lucy von Weiher as director of the documenta archiv as of June 1, 1961


At the meeting of the documenta society on January 17th, Arnold Bode (1900-1977) submits a paper, in which he states “Is the continuation of documenta necessary? […] Yes, but only with the condition that an institute or rather an archive is established, for one can’t improvise with the preparation of the third documenta as we had to for the first two. We suggest immediately establishing an administrative office and an archive backdated to January, 1st.” On June, 1st, the documenta archiv is founded as a municipal institution. It is Arnold Bode’s wish that art historian Werner Haftmann (1912-1999), his partner in the planning of documenta, would be appointed the director of the archive, however, the city chooses art historian Lucy von Weiher (1911-1969). The first location is the Landes- und Murhardsche Bibliothek (State and Murhard Library), with which the archive is affiliated.

© documenta archiv

Dr. Lucy von Weiher

University library of Kassel - "Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek"

1969 – 1973

After the death of Lucy von Weiher, the documenta archiv remains without scholarly guidance.

1973 – 1977

In 1973, Dr. Ela Spornitz is appointed as the director of the archive, which three years later becomes a department of the Cultural Office of the city of Kassel.

© documenta archiv

Dr. Ela Spornitz

1978 – 1988

In 1978, Dr. Spornitz is succeeded by art historian Dr. Konrad Scheurmann (b. 1946), under whose leadership the archive is moved away from the Landes- und Murhardsche Bibliothek to the Kulturhaus am Ständeplatz in 1981. A digital archive of the artists is developed and a video collection is established.

© documenta archiv / Frank Mihm

Dr. Konrad Scheurmann


After the departure of Konrad Scherumann, the position of director is vacant for a year. During this time, the documenta archiv moves to the Kulturhaus Dock 4, Untere Karlsstr. 4.


1989 – 1992

In 1989, the position is filled by art historian Dr. Hubertus Gaßner (b. 1950), who initiates the publication of a bibliographical journal in an international context. The establishment of an Artothek affiliated with the archive (1990), the acquisition of the estate of Arnold Bode, and the creation of an electronic library catalog also occur during his tenure.

© documenta archiv / Ryszard Kasiewicz

Dr. Hubertus Gassner


After the departure of Hubert Gaßner, his deputy, art historian and librarian Karin Stengel (b. 1951), serves as acting director for a year, and in 1993 assumes the management function in full. Despite the small number of staff, the archive is able to participate in research projects in the years that follow and to employ additional staff through project funding. The focus during this time is on the digitization of text documents, images, and videos to be incorporated into a joint database.

© documenta archiv / Ryszard Kasiewicz

Karin Stengel


The first presentable result of this entry into the digital age is the publication of a CD-ROM “documenta 1-9, Profiling Four Decades of Exhibition History”, in which documenta artists, their contributions to exhibitions and the various locations in the exhibition are linked.


The documenta archiv is part of “Vektor,” an international research project of the EU, and prepares the exhibition “Wiedervorlage d5,” which is shown in 2001 for the archive’s 40th anniversary in the art space of the art association at the Fridericianum. The first website of the archive is created and the library catalog goes online.



On the occasion of applying to be a cultural capital of Europe in 2010, the city of Kassel publishes a brochure that for the first time provides a programmatic presentation of an “Arnold Bode Center.” A new building on Friedrichsplatz is envisioned where the extended documenta archiv, all documenta institutions, and the “Stiftung 7000 Eichen” should be brought together as a documenta academy. In August 2003, Hessian Prime Minister Roland Koch (b. 1958) and the mayor of Kassel, Georg Lewandowski, visit the archive together. A donation from the Kassel Rotary allows a first pilot project for the digitization the photographic collections and their presentation on the internet. The database European Art Net, a result of the “Vector Project,” goes online. The holdings of the archive are integrated into the international database “Virtual Catalogue for Art History (VKK)” (today: www.arthistoricum.net) and is available via the most important search platform for publications in the field of art history.

© documenta archiv / Ryszard Kasiewicz

Panel of the conference on "Wiedervorlage d5" at the Evangelische Akademie Hofgeismar (from left to right): Klaus Staeck, Hubertus Gaßner, Harald Szeemann, Georg Jappe


For the 50th anniversary of documenta, the archive prepares a two-part exhibition in cooperation with documenta GmbH, which is presented at Museum Fridericianum. The documentary component, titled “archive in motion,” subsequently goes on a worldwide tour organized and funded by the IFA institute. The exhibition in Kassel is supplemented by a symposium in Hofgeismar. Due to renovation work, the documenta archive must leave Dock 4 for nine months and is housed in the vacant library of the Bundessozialgericht (Federal Social Court) on Wilhelmshöher Allee in the interim.

2006 – 2008

Upon the return to the location on Untere Karlsstrasse, the “documenta table” is installed in the archive. The eleven-meter-long illuminated table (one meter for each year of documenta) was conceived during the preparations for the documenta anniversary and sent on a tour of Germany. A forerunner of the touch screen, it is possible to access texts and photographs of each documenta by touching the table surface, and receive background information regarding the exhibition. Due to a lack of space, the Artothek is annexed to the Kassel Municipal Library. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) provides funding for the project “Mediencluster documenta und Gegenwartskunst,” which enables the digitization and cataloging of images and press materials from documenta exhibitions 1 to 5, and allows the creation of a database for all media. The dedication of the archive of Harry Kramer (1925-1997) in the Aschrotthaus takes place on May 10, 2006. Through a gift from his widow, the estate of the documenta artist and former professor at the Kunsthochschule Kassel is made available to the public.

© documenta archiv / Ryszard Kasiewicz

The "documenta table" in the entrance area of the archive administration


The documenta archiv becomes part of the “mediaartbase.de” project together with the Kassel Dokumentarfilm- und Videofest (documentary film and video festival), the European Media Art Festival in Osnabrück, and the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe. The project’s objective is to digitize vulnerable videotapes and to make their contents searchable in a shared database. During this period, the discussion surrounding the creation of a documenta Center receives increased attention through the negotiations for the purchase of the Harald Szeemann Archive. New architectural plans garner a positive reaction from the city council. In January 2009, the library joins the Südwestdeutschen Bibliotheksverbund (SWB) among libraries in Dresden and Heidelberg that also house special collections significant to the field of art history. Its holdings are registered with the “ZDB” periodicals database, becoming integrated into the national and international library network.


The documenta archiv celebrates its 50th anniversary with a celebratory event and a concert by performance artist Laurie Anderson (b. 1947) at the Staatstheater Kassel. The performance is supplemented by a symposium in Hofgeismar. The purchase of the Szeemann Archive is not successful, and it is instead acquired by the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. The continuation of the project “Mediencluster documenta und Gegenwartskunst,” which involves the further digitization and description of the image and press holdings of the archive for documenta 6 through documenta 12, is approved by the DFG in the area of image collection for the time period 2011 to 2014.


An additional project to index older holdings of the documenta archiv is also approved by the DFG. The city of Kassel commissions a feasibility study to assess the former bank offices on Ständeplatz as a potential location for an expanded archive, and, along with various architecture competitions, perpetuates public discussion of the future status of the institution.


In February/March of 2013, an archival exhibition about documenta 5 and 6 entitled “The End(s) of the Library: Elective Affinities” is created in a collaboration with the rector of the Kunsthochschule, Christian Philipp Müller (b. 1957), and shown at the Goethe Institute in New York. Starting in the winter semester of 2013, the state of Hesse begins hosting a two-year “documenta professorship” at the Kunsthochschule in Kassel, which is filled by the art historian Dorothea von Hantelmann (b. 1969), who works closely with the documenta archiv. Karin Stengel retires in June of 2013, and is succeeded by art historian Dr. Gerd Mörsch (born 1975) three months later.

© documenta archiv / Eberhard Weible

Dr. Gerd Mörsch


The documenta archive and its future are explicitly mentioned as tasks in the new Hessian coalition agreement. Gerd Mörsch establishes the “Meine documenta” contemporary witness project, which is conducted in cooperation with Offenes Kanal Kassel. In October of 2014, Marlies Rosa Hillmann bequeaths to the archive the estate of her husband Hans Hillmann (1925-2014), documenta artist and professor at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, along with a donation to ensure its development. One month later, the documenta archiv is awarded the Hessian Archive Prize.

© documenta archiv / Ryszard Kasiewicz

The two versions of the cooperation agreement between the City of Kassel and the State of Hesse


On July 15th, 2015, the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse sign a cooperation agreement, designating the documenta archiv as part of the documenta and the Museum Fridericianum gGmbH. The budget will be adjusted accordingly in order to advance its expansion as an independent institution. In December of 2015, Gerd Mörsch leaves the documenta archiv.


With the historian Martin Groh (born 1963) as director of the documenta archiv, the organizational and structural reorganization begins under the auspices of documenta gGmbH. On 1 July, the art historian and archivist Dr. Birgit Jooss (b. 1965) begins her work as the new archive director. The Technik-Museum Kassel takes on the technical refurbishment of the documenta table in order to present it to the public in the permanent exhibition. With the screening of a “Film, der nie gedreht wurde“ (“film that was never made”) for the first documenta exhibition, the new series of events “aus dem documenta archiv” (“from the documenta archive”) commences in October. On November 10th, the federal budgetary committee approves the financial participation of the federal government to the amount of 12 million Euros in the creation of a documenta Institute, with the condition of adequate co-financing from the city of Kassel and the state of Hesse.

© documenta archiv / Ryszard Kasiewicz

Dr. Birgit Jooss


As the main lender and cooperation partner of the Institute for Cultural and Media Management of Freie Universität Berlin and the Institute for Art Administration and Education of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Beijing, the documenta archiv is present in the major exhibition on the history of documenta in Beijing and Shanghai. In March, the corporate identity of the documenta archive is presented, which was developed together with the office L2M3 Kommunikationsdesign, Stuttgart. October sees the start of the exhibition series "Im documenta archiv", which presents special aspects of the history of documenta on the basis of photographs, archive materials and posters in the rooms of the documenta archiv. Just one month later, the first cooperation with the documenta professor starts: the lecture series "documenta Institute Discourse" invites international speakers to reflect on archiving, research and mediation.



The rental of a new outdoor depot leads to spatial restructuring. On 1 January, a central reading room for all three departments of the documenta archiv is set up for the first time. This enables users to be offered much longer opening hours on site. At the same time - also for the first time - a restoration workshop is set up, which the newly recruited restorer puts into operation. Together with the city of Kassel, the first specifications for the new documenta Institute to be established are being drawn up.

In November, the documenta archiv is hosting a major international conference. Under the title "Archiving the Unarchivable", speakers from various disciplines explore the challenges facing media collections and their conservation in the digital age.


The Bauhaus anniversary year also determined the work of the documenta archiv. Together with the University of Kassel, it initiated a four-part project that takes the one 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus as an opportunity to look at both cultural brands in parallel. From May to September, a comprehensive exhibition in the Neue Galerie offers material for discussion on the role and function that art and culture play in a society. This will be followed in June by a symposium and in August by the launch of the documenta archive's first virtual exhibition, which will explore the question, "How much Bauhaus is in documenta? A Search for Traces." An overarching accompanying book rounds out the project.

This will be followed seamlessly by preparations for the major permanent exhibition "about: documenta," which will provide an overview of the history of the world art exhibition in the Neue Galerie. It will open in November. At the same time, the documenta archiv team is working on a comprehensive concept paper for its sponsors in order to professionally develop the archive, collection and library holdings in a large-scale cataloguing offensive. The goal - especially in view of the future documenta Institute - is to make the holdings available for use by scholars and the interested public.


In January, Bazon Brock, thinker, art mediator, art critic and artist donates his rich archive and parts of his collection to the documenta archiv. A generous donation from Hubert Burda makes the professional cataloguing possible. A new project is dedicated to the processing of Dieter Schwerdtle's photo collection, in particular the photographs of Joseph Beuys. At the beginning of February, Birgit Jooss leaves the archive and Martin Groh once again becomes the provisional director. In October, Dr. Birgitta Coers starts as the new archive director.

© Fotofabrik Stuttgart

Dr. Birgitta Coers

Publication Series

No. 31 (German & Englisch Edition)
Jooss, Birgit, Oswalt, Philipp, Tyradellis, Daniel (Eds.): bauhaus | documenta: Vision and Brand, Leipzig: Spector Books, 2019, 271 Pages
German Edition: ISBN 978-3-95905-299-3; Englisch Edition: ISBN: 978-2-95-905-300-6 | 32,00€

No. 30

Pickartz, Tim: »Der Tanz war sehr frenetisch...« - kuratorische Praxis, Kunstvermittlung und Vermittlungskunst auf der dOCUMNETA (13), Bielefeld: transcript, 2019, 423 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-8376-4746-4 | 49,99€

No. 29

Kimpel, Harald: documenta persönlich. Weitere Erinnerungen an die Weltkunstausstellung, Weimar: Jonas Verlag, 2018. 144 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-89445-549-1 | 20,00€

No. 28 (German Edition, extended)

Siebenhaar, Klaus: documenta. Die Geschichte der Weltkunstausstellung 1955-2022, Berlin: B&S Siebenhaar Verlag, 2022. 171 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-949111-09-9 | 20,00€

No. 28 (English Edition)

Siebenhaar, Klaus: documenta. A brief history of an exhibition and its contexts, Berlin/Kassel: B&S Siebenhaar Verlag, 2017. 173 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-943132-64-9 | not available

No. 27

Kiel, Benjamin und Toopeekoff, Jelena : Die Rezeption der Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins in der zeitgenössischen Kunst, Kassel: kassel university press GmbH, 2016. 257 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-7376-5000-7 | 34,00€

No. 26

Schwarze, Dirk: Im Schatten der documenta. Kritiken und Aufsätze zu Kunst, Berlin/Kassel: B&S Siebenhaar Verlag, 2015. 197 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-943132-32-8 | no available

No. 25

Sadr Haghighian, Natascha, Pola Siverding und Japser Kettner (Eds.): trail. Project realized for dOCUMENTA(13) – 9 june until 16 september 2012, Leipzig: Spector Books, 2015. 253 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-95905-013-5 | 28,00€

No. 24

Eppert, Anja: Die documenta und der öffentliche Raum. Eine Darstellung anhand ausgewählter künstlerischer Arbeiten, ihrer Wirkungen und Wechselwirkungen im historischen Kontext, Kassel: kassel university press GmbH, 2014. 243 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-86219-530-5 | 24,00€

No. 23

Hoffmann, Katja: Ausstellungen als Wissensordnungen. Zur Transformation des Kunstbegriffs auf der documenta 11, Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013. 497 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-8376-2020-7 | 39,80€

No. 22

Stengel, Karin (Ed.): Delusion: Laurie Anderson, Kassel 2012. 83 Pages

No. 21

Kimpel, Harald (Ed.): documenta emotional. Erinnerungen an die Weltkunstausstellungen, Marburg: Jonas Verlag, 2012. 127 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-89445-461-6 | 20,00€

No. 20

Stengel, Karin (Ed.): ... nach der documenta. 50 Jahre documenta Archiv für die Kunst des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts, Berlin: B&S Siebenhaar Verlag, 2011. 104 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-936962-18-5 | 12,80€

No. 19

Stengel, Karin, Heike Radeck und Friedhelm Scharf (Eds.): documenta zwischen Inszenierung und Kritik. 50 Jahre documenta, Hofgeismar: Evangelische Akademie Hofgeismar, 2007. 173 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-89281-252-4; 3-89281-252-7 | 10,00€

No. 18

Schwarze, Dirk: Die Kunst der Inszenierung: oder Als Arnold Bode Ernst Wilhelm Nay in den Himmel hob, Berlin: B&S Siebenhaar Verlag, 2009. 89 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-936962-78-9 | not available

No. 17

Kimpel, Harald, Stengel, Karin: documenta 4. 1968. Internationale Ausstellung. Eine fotografische Rekonstruktion, Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2007. 222 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-86108-524-9 | 14,90€

No. 16

Georgsdorf, Heiner (Ed.): Schriften und Gespräche. Arnold Bode, Berlin: B&S Siebenhaar Verlag, 2007. 327 Pages
ISBN: 978-3-934189-75-1 | 34,80€

No. 15

Schirmer, Gisela: DDR und die documenta. Kunst im deutsch-deutschen Widerspruch, Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2005. 176 Pages
ISBN: 3-496-01338-9 | not available

No. 13–14

Glasmeier, Michael, Stengel, Karin u.a. (Eds.): 50 Jahre / years documenta 1955 – 2005. Kunsthalle Fridericianum Kassel, 1. September - 20. November 2005 / Txts in German and Englisch. 1. Archive in motion, 415 Pages/ 2. Diskrete Energien, 239 Pages, Göttingen: Steidl, 2005.
ISBN: 3-86521-146-1 | 38,00€

No. 12

Kimpel, Harald, Stengel, Karin: documenta 3. 1964. Internationale Ausstellung. Eine fotografische Rekonstruktion, Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2005. 332 Pages
ISBN: 3-86108-528-3 | 14,90€

No. 11

Weyel, Eberhard: Museum für Reproduktion (Musée Benjamin) im documenta Archiv, Kassel: documenta archiv, 2005. 56 Pages
ISBN: 3-9808746-1-3 | 9,80€

No. 10 

Kimpel, Harald (Ed.): 1982 - 2002, 20 Jahre Joseph Beuys
7000 Eichen - Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung, Kassel: Stadt Kassel, 2003. 48 Pages
ISBN: 3-9808746-0-5 | not available

No. 9

Radeck, Heike, Stengel, Karin, Scharf, Friedhelm (Eds.): Wiedervorlage documenta 5 [Dokumentation einer Tagung der Evangelischen Akademie Hofgeismar], Hofgeismarer Protokolle 324, Hofgeismar: Evangelische Akademie, 2002. 86 Pages
ISBN: 3-89281-233-0 | 10,00€

No. 8

Nachtigäller, Roland, Scharf, Friedhelm, Stengel, Karin (Eds.): Wiedervorlage d5. Eine Befragung des Archivs zur documenta 1972 – eine Ausstellung des Kulturdezernats / documenta Archivs im Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, 3. November – 30 Dezember 2001, Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001. 247 Pages
ISBN: 3-7757-1121-X | not available

No. 7

Kimpel, Harald, Stengel, Karin: documenta 2. 1959. Kunst nach 1945. Internationale Ausstellung. Eine fotografische Rekonstruktion, Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2000. 176 Pages
ISBN: 3-86108-523-2 | 14,90€

No. 6

Stehr, Werner und Kirschenmann, Johannes (Eds.): Materialien zur documenta IX. Ein Reader für Unterricht und Studium, Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz, 1997. 230 Pages
ISBN: 3-89322-921-3; 3-89322-912-4 | not available

No. 5

Kimpel, Harald: documenta: Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Köln: DuMont, 1996. 416 Pages
ISBN: 3-7701-4182-2 | not available

No. 4

Stengel, Karin, Nachtigäller, Roland, Hinck, Petra, Malec, Antje (Eds.): Künstlerindex zur documenta IX. Mit einem Beitrag von Jan Hoet Ostfildern: Cantz, 1995. 62 Pages
ISBN: 3-89322-750-4 | 5,00€

No. 3

Kimpel, Harald, Stengel, Karin: documenta 1955. Erste Internationale Kunstausstellung. Eine fotografische Rekonstruktion, Bremen: Edition Temmen, 1995. 159 Pages
ISBN: 3-86108-514-3 | not available

No. 2

Lemke, Inga: documenta-Dokumentationen. Die Problematik der Präsentation zeitgenössischer Kunst im Fernsehen – aufgezeigt am Beispiel der documenta-Berichterstattung der öffentlich-rechtlichen Fernsehanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1955-1987, Marburg: Jonas-Verlag, 1995. 196 Pages
ISBN: 3-89445-187-4 | not available

No. 1

Gaßner, Hubertus, Kopanski, Karlheinz and Stengel, Karin (Eds.): Die Konstruktion der Utopie. Ästhetische Avantgarde und politische Utopie in den 20er Jahren, Marburg: Jonas-Verlag, 1992. 224 Pages
ISBN: 3-89445-123-8 | not available


Leitner, Karin: Lesezeich(n)en: Zappen und Clustern im documenta Archiv [ein Ausstellungsprojekt: 6.9.2014 - 31.3.2015], Kassel 2015


Museumslandschaft Kassel: Standortuntersuchungen documenta-Zentrum (1. Zwischenbericht), Kassel, 2007


Nachtigäller, Roland, Scharf, Friedhelm und Stengel, Karin : Wiedervorlage d5. Eine Befragung des Archivs zur documenta 1972, Kassel/Ostfildern 2001


Tomm, Anna-Katharina: documenta-Zentrum, Diploma Thesis, Kassel 2004


Weyel, Eberhard: Museum für Reproduktion (Musée Benjamin) im documenta Archiv, Kassel 2005

documenta gGmbH

The documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH is a non-profit organization financed by the City of Kassel and the State of Hesse with the support of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.


It consists of four institutions: the current documenta exhibition, the Museum Fridericianum, the documenta exhibition hall and since January 1, 2016 also the documenta archiv.


Further information about the documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH here.