documenta is an exhibition of contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. It was founded by artist, teacher and curator Arnold Bode in 1955 as part of the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Horticultural Show) which took place in Kassel at that time, and was an attempt to bring Germany up to speed with modern art, both banishing and repressing the cultural darkness of Nazism. This first documenta featured many artists who are generally considered to have had a significant influence on modern art (such as Picasso and Kandinsky). The more recent documentas feature art from all continents; nonetheless most of it is site-specific.
Every documenta is limited to 100 days of exhibition, which is why it is often referred to as the "museum of 100 days". Documenta is not a selling exhibition. It rarely coincides with the three other major art world events: the Venice Biennale, Art Basel and Skulptur Projekte Münster, in 2017 all four are open simultaneously.
Etymology of documenta
The name of the exhibition is an invented word. The term is supposed to demonstrate the intention of every exhibition (in particular of the first documenta in 1955) to be a documentation of modern art which was not available for the German public during the Nazi era. Rumour spread from those close to Arnold Bode that it was relevant for the coinage of the term that the Latin word documentum could be separated into docere (Latin for teach) and mens (Latin for intellect) and therefore thought it to be a good word to describe the intention and the demand of the documenta.
Each edition of documenta has commissioned its own visual identity, most of which have conformed to the typographic style of solely using lowercase letters, which originated at the Bauhaus.