DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16/06-23/09 2007

d3 1964

"Art is what major artists make.“ This was the motto of documenta 3 in 1964. Werner Haftmann again tried to justify his hypothesis on the primacy of pre-War Modernism and for the last time the show centered on the older generation of artists with selected works, documenting their exemplary role for contemporary art. However, no claim was made to completeness; the artists were purely selected according to "quality and relevance". The special feature of d3 was that it no longer entailed showcasing various groups of artists, but hinged on the artist as an individual. The freedom and independence of art was something that could no longer be construed in terms of styles and schools, but arose from the individual creative act of an outstanding artist, although Haftmann continued to adhere to his notion of "abstraction as world language" and neglected those most recent trends in contemporary art which ran against the grain of this theory.

This approach was demonstrated as a model in particular in the new exhibition on hand drawings included in the documenta for the first time and which Werner Haftmann considered the "most intimate and personal form of artistic expression“. Some 500 exhibits were on show, chosen to trace the development of Modern art, starting with Impressionism. They included works by Cézanne and van Gogh, Chagall, Picasso and Dix, Kokoschka, Feininger and Paul Klee, de Chirico, Max Ernst and Miró, right up to drawings by young Europeans such as Sonderborg, Vedova, Lismonde and Lucebert. Based at the rebuilt Gallery of the Schöne Aussicht (now the Neue Galerie), which, for the first time since the War, supplemented the Fridericianum and Orangerie exhibition venues , the presentation of drawings was intended to offer insights into the personal creative process - and was the real sensation at d3.

Arnold Bode's concept for the ever more intensive and evocative staging of the works – intended, among other things, to enable the "visual grasp of what makes creative people creative" – reached a new spectacular climax at documenta 3. Concentrated cabinets customized to house individual works took the reception of art to the point of comprehensive spatial experiences. For example, three pictures by US painter Sam Francis, which he had created for the stairwell at Kunsthalle Basel, were presented in an hexagonal hall with natural light from above, giving them almost a sense of holiness. The culmination of Bode's setting was the presentation of three large-sized paintings by Ernst Wilhelm Nay, suspended at a spectacular angle from the ceiling of a cabinet built specially for them. It was the zenith of Bode's concept – which, as art historian Walter Grasskamp once suggested, Bode might have felt competed with and anticipated the spatial installations and environments that first appeared on the scene at that same time.


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