June 23, 2017
County Board Supervisor Chuck Erickson: 608-212-8753
County Board

New display in City-County Building honors sister county’s famed art exhibit


Launched in 1955 to introduce Germany back to the international cultural scene following World War II, documenta has evolved into the world’s largest modern art presentation.


Held once every five years in Kassel, Germany, documenta 14 opened earlier this month and is expected to attract over 750,000 visitors over its 100-day run that ends in September.


Now, in part because of its unique sister county arrangement with Kassel, Dane County is celebrating documenta 14 by featuring the only known complete collection of advertising posters from the storied German art show.


The posters were installed on the first floor of the City-County Building this week and will remain up throughout the summer. The building at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is open daily to the public.  A reception will be held at 6:30 PM on July 13th.


“Each documenta poster is a work of art in itself,” said Dane County Supervisor Chuck Erickson of Madison, a leader of the sister county relationship with Kassel. “This display will only deepen the ties between our two counties.”


In addition to the posters, Dane County is also sending two homegrown artists to Kassel to participate in an art show associated with documenta 14.


Sculptor Brenda Baker, director of exhibits at the Madison Children’s Museum, and painter Jennika Bastian, who also works at the Children’s Museum, are among just four artists selected from around the world to take up residence and show work at EUARCA 2017, a component of documenta 14, with costs borne by Kassel.


"I am honored and humbled to be awarded this incredible opportunity," Baker said. "Having the chance to create new work and exhibit at EUARCA 17, while representing Dane County as a cultural ambassador in Kassel is a dream come true. “


The Dane County-Kassel connection dates to 2007 when the two counties entered into a formal Sister County Partnership.  The agreement is designed to exchange ideas and build economic partnerships in areas like renewable energy, regional transportation systems, workforce training and continuing education.


With a population of approximately 193,000, Kassel is smaller than Dane County (population 523,000) but shares many of the same characteristics including a university and an emerging high-tech sector highlighted by the Institute for Solar Energy Technologies.


Over the past 10 years, Kassel and Dane County have remained committed to the goals set forth in the cooperative agreement and have participated in several exchanges.


Last fall, the Edgar Knecht Jazz Trio of Germany played a show at the Stoughton Opera House and later teamed with Con Vivo!, a Dane County chamber orchestra that traveled to Kassel in 2015 to participate in the Kultursommer NordHessen Arts Festival.


In 2014, Dane County welcomed Christian Schauderna from Kassel, who served as Artist-In-Residence at Edgewood College. He created a new work in the Edgewood College Gallery.  Funding for the cultural exchanges comes from private donations, Dane Arts and Kassel County.


“Dane County’s unique connection to Kassel helps bring the world to our students,” said David Wells, director of the Edgewood College Gallery who helped curate the documenta poster collection at the City-County Building.


The first documenta was the brainchild of Kassel painter and academy professor Arnold Bode. He founded the “Society of Western Art of the 20th Century” to present art that had been deemed degenerate by the Nazis.


It featured a retrospective of works from major movements (Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, the Blaue Reiter, Futurism) along with individuals such as Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky and Henry Moore. It also showed the works of Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer and Max Beckmann alongside classics of modernism.


Today, each new documenta has as a unique theme taken from the ideas and concept of the artistic director. The theme for this year is “On the Run” to recognize the plight of immigrants and refugees.


“Dane County should consider itself fortunate,” said Erickson. “We are one of the few counties in the U.S. with a sister county and to have it with a place like Kassel only makes it more special.”