Interview with Raphael Gross on the history of documenta

Werner Haftmann (left) and Arnold Bode at the opening ceremony of documenta 3 in 1964
Image: Wolfgang Haut, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

An exhibition in Berlin reveals the Nazi past of documenta co-founder Werner Haftmann. A conversation with Raphael Gross, President of the German Historical Museum.

In the coming week, an exhibition on the history of the world art exhibition documenta will open in the German Historical Museum in Berlin (June 18, 2021 to January 9, 2022). Using unique archive finds, works of art and photographs, it not only shows how the show in Kassel, which took place for the first time in 1955 and then every four to five years, rose to become one of the most important art exhibitions in the world; What the outstanding catalog succeeds in depicting is how politics was made with art in the Cold War and how the Federal Republic of Germany designed a self-portrait of art as a modern, western-oriented state.

The team that curated the Berlin exhibition – including the art historian Lars Bang Larsen, the science historian and former art director in the features section of the FAZ, Julia Voss, and the contemporary historian Dorothee Wierling – also make it clear to what extent and despite the alleged new beginning old rope teams from the time before 1945 also ruled through art. In particular, the research into the role of one of the formative co-founders of documenta, the art historian Werner Haftmann, made the Berlin show a political issue: As the exhibition organizers can prove, Haftmann was not only a member of the NSDAP and SA, but was also involved in atrocities against the Italian population was wanted as a war criminal in Italy after 1946.

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