documenta 14 – learning from Athens | DW Documentary

documenta 14’s exhibit in Athens has opened its doors for its fourteenth season. Germany’s renowned modern art exhibition is running in two cities for the first time in its history: Athens and Kassel.

Learning from Athens is the tagline given by artistic director Adam Szymczyk to documenta 14. The modern art exhibition is one of the largest in the world and has been held in Kassel, Germany, since 1955. But this year, the exhibit is split between two cities in two different countries: it’s a controversial move.

Athens is currently struggling with economic problems and is also on the frontline of the refugee crisis. While curators and artists hope it will reinvigorate the Greek capital’s art scene, the plan’s detractors complain that it smacks of cultural imperialism.

One of the critics, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, called it ‘a gimmick’ to exploit the tragedy in Greece. Will the troubled city end up little more than a striking backdrop for the international art élite? What can wealthy northern Europe really learn from a city that’s struggling to stay afloat?

What happens when the event is over? And what purpose does art serve in times of crisis? A look behind the scenes of documenta 14, which kicks off in the Greek capital on April 8 and moves on to Kassel in June.

Find out more about documenta 14 in our web special:


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