Features » Art


The unofficial list

The possible and probable list of particants at this year's documenta

Seven reasons why the documenta 12 will be a revolution were provided a couple of weeks ago in Die Zeit by Hanno Rauterberg, who expressed his delight that art can finally be art again. But it's not as easy as that. There's now an eighth fact that deserves to be officially mentioned – the new use of the term "official". The "official" list of artists at the documenta 12 will be announced shortly before the opening – as was the case in 1997 and 2002. Until then, only three participants have been confirmed by the documenta office: Ferran Adriá, Artur Zmijewski and Ricardo Basbaum.

Nonetheless, there's a bunch of names going around and some contributions to the documenta have already been reported on at length, for instance the project of the Chinese Ai Wei Wei. But he's not an official documenta artist. The difference is difficult to explain, as became clear to me at a recent dinner with artists, art dealers and collectors at Art Cologne. It took a while for me to convince the others of the official limitations on the official documenta artists as I understand them.

In order to facilitate communication, I'm going to recommend a terminological clarification. Artists whose participation is known to all but who have not yet been officially confirmed will be called "public" documenta artists. It is known publicly that Ai Wei Wei is inviting 1001 Chinese to Kassel and that Sanja Ivekovic is going to plant a huge poppy field on the Friedrichsplatz, which at the moment is a huge construction site – but none of that is official.

One variety of the "public" participant could be called the "silent participant." Everyone knows that these people are coming, their names have been made public, but nobody's writing about them. One example: Imogen Stidworthy. Her participation has been talked about from the beginning but nobody seems to care. Another category of silent participant are those whose participation is known but whose names have not yet been made public. Zoe Leonard's name surfaced this week in the information service. Her contribution to the documenta 1992 – pictures of female genitalia hung between the rococo paintings in the Neuen Galerie - was almost a scandal. The participation of Monika Baers, one of the most interesting German painters of the moment, seems to only interest her gallery so far.

Then there are the "probable" participants. These are artists from the 1960s and 70s who were presented in short portraits in the first ever "documenta 12 magazine," which came out recently, and then there are those who participated in the exhibition curated by Buergel/Noack called "Die Regierung" (the government), some of whose names had already been published in Vienna's Standard at the beginning of March.

Official means something like "confirmed". The public and silent participants are sure to have received "real" invitations from the documenta which, however, have not been made public. So in fact they are official but in a sense still silent participants. And then there are artists whose names can not be made public because nobody knows them – for example an anonymous Persian miniaturist-painter from the 14th century. But maybe he'll speak up yet – officially speaking, each participant is allowed to announce his or her participation.

That so many names remain unpublished is nothing short of a miracle. Obviously it's not that important to know them already. The curators should in fact be pleased – if we are to take their official plea for a leisurely consideration of art seriously – to see that the documenta is of limited interest to the hot greedy market. But because our coverage is not only aimed at those representing the commercial art scene, we have assembled an unofficial list of artists and are asking our readers to add to it take away from it, shouls they know better than we do. We're in a position to respond quickly, seeing as we don't have to let everything be officially confirmed.


documenta 12 takes place in Kassel from June 16 - September 23, 2007.

This article originally appeared in artnet on April 26, 2007.
Translation: nb - let's talk european