The number made the rounds quickly. Even before Art Basel officially opened, Hauser
The purchase price for Bourgeois’ work was also remarkable because it was just under the budget for the Documenta, which opened the same week. Two worlds cannot be further apart, one would think: in Basel business, in Kassel pure art. But that was never true. At the second Documenta in 1959, the gallery owner Hein Stünke, who a few years later invented the art fair in Cologne with Rudolf Zwirner, was allowed to sell graphics in return for his consulting work in the Bellevue Palace, where the graphics were exhibited. What the visitors had just walked past was then offered in the same building in the second or third edition.
Documenta and the market have never been so closely and obviously dovetailed, but the connection remained behind the scenes. Some gallery owners shamelessly took advantage when asked to loan one of their artists. Yes, was the answer many times, but on the condition that other artists in the gallery who still needed start-up help would also be exhibited.
The Documenta became the gallery’s extended showcase, also for collectors who traveled on to the Biennale di Venezia and Art Basel.
There they were able to purchase a variety of the previously seen works. The Documenta contributions produced with gallery support were for sale after the 100 days in Kassel anyway. Gallerists were therefore happy to guide their customers through the Fridericianum and the other exhibition locations themselves.
With every Documenta, the demand that the influence of the market must be pushed back became louder. The assertiveness of a curator was not least measured by this.
Since the Documenta Fifteen wants to do everything differently – instead of individual artists it brings in collectives, instead of artefacts it shows processes – it also introduces rigorously new things in this area. The Ruangrupa group of curators has also shot the Documenta spaceship into a new era in economic terms: capitalism has become Ekosistem, a central concept in Ruangrupa’s concept.
This is based on the idea of a sustainable cycle of goods and values. Nevertheless, the collective from Indonesia is not naïve when it comes to the pressure of the market and therefore declared the Documenta to be a sales gallery from the outset – only according to its laws.
Ruangrupa works with the economic mechanisms, but openly and not to increase profits. According to the Indonesian lumbung principle, which applies to the entire documenta, the business should not serve the advantage of the individual, but the benefit of all: the surplus harvest brought into the rice barn is shared among the people or given to the needy. However, this is where it gets complicated, also mathematically, because instead of being tough on the market, the pricing is based on the needs of the collectives and artists.
That’s why Ruangrupa has teamed up with the Berlin non-profit art platform TheArtist to handle the deals for the Lumbung Gallery, as the department is quite unabashedly called. A barcode for further contact is emblazoned next to the labels of individual works, which are still present at this documenta despite the primary presentation of joint activities.
The Britto Arts Trust collective from Bangladesh, for example, has set up a shop in the Documenta hall that sells ceramic objects like in a supermarket: fruit that looks like a hand grenade at first glance, cauliflower heads that rise like smoke from pistols. For spontaneous purchases and small amounts of money, crocheted flowers from the Britto Arts Trust can be bought from vending machines in the Hübner area. The Lumbung Gallery in Kassel will keep a warehouse for a year after the Documenta, should not everything be sold.
The Lumbung Gallery could set a precedent, that’s how the creators imagine it. This is where we try out how the profits can be distributed more fairly to all those involved. The endless list of those named in the credits of a movie also applies to the creation of many a complex installation. Everyone’s contribution should be seen and fairly rewarded. This brings the artists – as producers of the created value – often the last link in the big reckoning – into the limelight.
How is that supposed to work now? Of the purchase price, which is made up of the production costs and the current market value, 30 percent goes to the Lumbung Gallery, 70 percent to the artists or collectives. They split their profit independently. The artist Tania Bruguera, who lives in exile in the USA, already has a clear idea of who she wants to send the money to in her native Cuba in order to continue supporting the protest movement there.
The Indonesian Jatiwangi Art Factory, on the other hand, wants to use the sale of individual bricks that are displayed in a display case in the Hübner area to acquire a vacant piece of land between the production facilities of two Western sporting goods giants in order to reforest there.
The brick buyer in Kassel symbolically acquires 16 square meters of Indonesian rainforest for 400 euros and takes part in the resistance. If the bricks are sold out, a brick factory in Kassel has promised to supply more.
A committee decides on the distribution of the Lumbung pot – also for a social purpose. Martin Heller, who, as a co-founder of TheArtist, is one of the operators of the Lumbung Gallery, has already received initial requests. The Wajujuu Art Project dreams of a school for their own grandchildren in Lunga Lunga, a slum in Nairobi surrounded by factories and industrial warehouses, where the Kenyan artist collective offers its workshops for the residents. The collective created a tunnel made of corrugated iron to serve as the entrance to the Documenta hall, with the soundtrack being noises from Lunga Lunga. “Come to our home” is the title.
And yet the system has its limits. One of the outstanding works at the Documenta is Hito Steyerl’s film “Animal Spirits” in the Ottoneum, produced for the Spanish collective Inland and co-financed by her Berlin gallery Esther Schipper. That doesn’t fit the idea of the collective at all.
The film is about sheep, wolves and a harmonious life with nature, which an “angry” shepherd preaches. “Cheesecoins” are brought into play as an alternative currency, which are hidden in the circular sheep’s cheese, which can be purchased in the garden of the Ottoneum. With luck you can get one of the coins in it. As an alternative financing model, however, this system is too complicated even for the Documenta.