Taking place once every five years, documenta is arguably the world's largest and most important contemporary art exhibition, comparable only to the Venice Biennale. Founded in 1955 in Kassel, Germany, the exhibition was conceived as a place to show "the art of its time", and artists who were not visible in Germany during the Nazi era. Subsequent exhibitions have opened up the scope and content of documenta, and have included artists from every continent. For its 14th edition, documenta realises a double programme, which sees the exhibition split between its hometown of Kassel and Athens, in a gesture of openness and inclusion that marks the first time the exhibition leaves Germany.
Taking place in no less that 49 venues in Athens, documenta 14 literally transforms the city into a vast exhibition of contemporary art, asking visitors to question reality and the traditional concept of what art could be. Some hosted in large institutions like the National Museum of Contemporary Art, others hidden in less visible and obvious places, the elements of documenta 14 are scattered across the city, and to be seen involves active participation from the part of the audience. Sound installations are hidden in public parks, and artworks have been placed in unusual locations, inviting visitors to become observant and see the city around them with a new set of eyes.
The scale of documenta 14 in Athens can be confusing and overwhelming for some, but there are a few parts of the exhibition that you should not miss if you are in town. The National Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a large part of the exhibition, focusing on the legacy of colonialism and the relationship between labour and society.
The iconic modernist building of the Athens Conservatory hosts another large exhibition, with a focus on music, notation and modes of learning. Other highlights include the Contemporary Art Annexe of the Benaki Museum, the Athens School of Fine Arts and the Filopappou Hill, where some artworks have been installed in the park. A dedicated catalogue as well as a volume of critical texts accompany the exhibition, available together with other souvenirs and useful guides at the National Museum of Contemporary Art shop.