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Documenta 13 throws open its doors to the public

posted 9 Jun 2012, 08:39 by Mpelembe   [ updated 9 Jun 2012, 08:39 ]

Documenta 13, one of the world's largest art shows, opens to the public. Germany's President Gauck kicks off the event.

KASSEL, GERMANY (JUNE 9, 2012) (REUTERS) - Stroll through a park in the sleepy German town of Kassel this summer and you can explore fairytale cottages brimming with bizarre objects, hear the sounds of the Brazilian jungle and enter the set of a West African theatrical performance.

Kassel's Orangerie and Karlsaue Park are just some of the venues of "Documenta", one of the world's biggest and most ambitious contemporary art fairs, which takes place every five years and which opened on Saturday (June 9).

This year's fair is the 13th Documenta since its founding in 1955 by an artist banned by the Nazis, and showcases the work of participants from some 56 countries, including Britain's Tacita Dean and South Africa's William Kentridge.

Opened by German President Joachim Gauck, this year's Documenta is disseminated more widely than ever before, and one of the biggest, with 750,000 visitors expected despite the rival attraction of Euro 2012 .

"We need art in the same way that we need religion, or philosophy, to be able to take a deeper look at things and to go deeper into ourselves and to discover ourselves, to be able to interact with the world," Gauck said from the Karlsaue Park.

"In exceptional situations, in very exceptional times, football can also be art," he added with a smile.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the festival's artistic director, has said she wants to broaden Documenta's focus from the visual arts to culture at large, ranging from quantum physics to historical artefacts.

A U.S.-born Italian-Bulgarian art historian with a distinctive mop of tightly curled golden hair, she dislikes categories and has frustrated some by providing no over-arching concept for the exhibition, preferring a "holistic" approach.

But for the people flocking to see the show on the first of its 100 days, there is a lot to be excited about.

"It's sort of one of the biggest points, the highlights of Kassel culture and it only happens every five years so it is a really important thing to try and see," Canadian visitor, Alex Thumm said.

"As someone who lives here I think it is an event that is important for the people here, to keep bringing art over here. To confront the people in Kassel, I think it is a very good process for everyone," local visitor Isabell Ledesma said.

Visitor Daniel Nord added: "Well it is important to me, because right now we don't see, we see a lot of things on the internet and a lot of things digitally but there is no real contact. So now, to see things in real. To be able to touch and see these things in a real environment is even more special than it was before."

One key theme this year is collapse and recovery, appropriate for a show created to revive both the visual arts in Germany and the city of Kassel, which was devastated during World War Two.

Originally modest in size, Documenta's budget is now around 25 million euros, and artworks are shown throughout the city in parks, museums, cinemas, and the train station, "like an exploded museum", according to Christov-Bakargiev.

Documenta is one of Europe's top four exhibitions, alongside the Venice Biennale, Art Basel and Monumenta in Paris