Finally, Documenta announces… VIP cars?!?

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 Adrià 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.

SaabKassel.jpgAll 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.

1 thought on “Finally, Documenta announces… VIP cars?!?”

  1. Dissertation topic alert! A history of corporate sponsorship could take as its backbone thesis the gradual aproach and perhaps, one day, the overt inclusion of the sponsor’s product into the sponsored work. We have traveled the long road from the fine print in the catalog to the discreet sign posted outside the front door to the coffee lounge in the immediate vicinity of the viewed work. But could it be that we’re not even half-way there? The logic of sponsorship, coupled with the miracle of modern technology, could ultimately dictate the inclusion of the Illy coffee or the Saab convertible into the painting/photograph/video. It’s happening on TV. And there are closer precedents. Look at all those Renaissance paintings with the patron and his wife dressed up as angels. Where should/could we draw the line?

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