documenta 1

Ten years after the end of the Second World War, Arnold Bode, art professor and designer, realized his dream of a comprehensive retrospective in Kassel showcasing the development of art in Europe in the 20th century. The venue for the exhibition named "documenta" was the war-ravaged, provisionally restored Museum Fridericianum. Its improvised state offered optimal conditions for spectacular methods of staging, in which works of art and space entered into an exciting relationships to one another.

On the organizational basis of the association "Abendländische Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts e.V.", with the support by the City of Kassel and with art historian Werner Haftmann as the most important advisor, Bode initiated here the start of the world's most important series of exhibitions for contemporary art. The name "documenta" already intended to signal the demand for an objective balance and a binding overview. Cultural policy tasks of national importance were connected with the concept of the first documenta: among other things, the rehabilitation of artists defamed as "degenerate" only a few years earlier, the reintegration of West Germany into the ranks of European cultural nations, and the creation of a programmatic basis for future artistic practice in a democratic society. In 1955, the declared aims of the project were "determining the current position", "coming to terms with the past" and "reconnecting" with the violently interrupted lines of tradition of the avant-garde of the first half of the century. Decisive for the credibility of these concerns was the fact that they were not ordered by the state but happened on a private initiative.