Documenta director Roger Buergel has been an enigmatic figure since being chosen two years ago. His relatively meager track record as a curator of major exhibitions gives the artworld little basis for guessing what he’ll deliver. And four months from the opening, the only selections offically announced are Barcelona chef Ferran AdriÃ and Polish artist Artur Zmijewsk. (Get it? He’s going from A to Z.) I’ve heard rumors of artists being asked to do pieces whose final inclusion is not totally certain. There is, in short, an information vacuum surrounding the whole event.
All of which made it even weirder when official sponsor Saab released news that the Documenta team had accepted delivery on its five VIP cars. In a classic bit of inscrutable curatorspeak Buergel was quoted in the press release saying: “Real coolness comes from within: on the outside, my car shows the formal elegance and effortlessness of a white cloud.”
Between this quote (implying that coolness cannot be contained in a car) and the fact that he turned away from the camera in the official photo, I’m hoping Buergel realizes this is all looking sort of silly. Or as the person who forwarded me the release wrote: “MUHAHAHAHAHA – imagine Mr Buergel in a white convertible! ROFLOL.” Seriously, though every young curator I know in Europe wonders what the hell is going on up there in Kassel. His show better be genius come June.
From a wider perspective, I think people doing noncommercial exhibitions need to start thinking a little more about how to handle sponsors – I’ll never forget the weirdness of the Illy coffee lounge that transected the 2003 Venice Biennale’s Arsenale, diluting the entire first half of the show’s impact. With the artworld so trendy right now, it might be a good time to drive some hard bargains with corporate PR departments.