Documenta 14 Comes to the Gennadius Library

The famed international art exhibition Documenta 14 is officially open in Athens, and the Gennadius Library is one of the hosts.

The contemporary art affair has been based in Kassel Germany every 5 years for the past 62. This is the first time the exhibition, this year called “Learning From Athens,” has been hosted equally by two cities. “The exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to put Athens in an international scale for something that is cultural, for something that has nothing to do with the crisis or strikes.” stated Gennadius Library Director, Maria Georgopoulou. “Athens is striving to be a metropolis and on many, many levels this is an important step.”

“I found out about three years ago, through a friend in Germany, that Documenta was going to happen here and I thought that would be a great opportunity for us to offer them our grounds and our material,” explained Georgopoulou. The Gennadius invited the Documenta team to come visit library and the American School, to see if there was anything from the school’s materials that was of interest to them. “I had thought that maybe some old books or something of our treasures would capture the imagination of some of the artists,” said Georgopoulou, “and so we started a collaboration which was very loose on some level.” Over the course of the next two years Documenta 14 brought several artists who had interests in writing, letters, or books to the Gennadius to learn and seek inspiration.

When it came time to choose venues, Documenta 14 was again interested in partnering with the Gennadius. “In the end the main curator thought it would be appropriate to showcase works that are related to what we do. And the three works that are here are indeed very much related with libraries, with books, with reading,” said Georgopoulou. “We are very eager to see how this works and how a network of artistic endeavors will make us visible. We are thrilled to have different people come into the library and into the gardens and remember and understand who we are.”

Learning from Timbuktu, by curator Igo Diarra in the Gennadius Reading Room

The Gennadius is showcasing three works. Learning from Timbuktu is a project by curator Igo Diarra involving artists from the network he has built up as the founder and director of the art space La Medina in Bamako, Mali. These arists work with writing, calligraphy, and traditional arts. “What Mr. Diarra has put together in the main reading room of the library is somewhat the history of writing,” explained Georgopoulou. “He has brought manuscripts from the 12th century form Timbuktu, hangings, and other sorts of traditional items.” There is also a calligrapher from Diarra’s network who is looking at old Greek manuscripts in order to try to reproduce the writing. “For me it’s very exciting that we have an African group of artists here in the Gennadius,” said Georgopoulou. “In some ways I think they explore things in the way John Gennadius had done in collecting books that explore the continuity of the Greek spirit. And this may be this beginning of some kind of larger collaboration.”

The other work in the reading room is a film by Ross Birrell, dedicated to the recent destruction by fire of the library of the Glasgow School of Art. The library was an exemplary modernist building originally designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Banu Cennetoğlu, “Gurbet’s Diary (27.07.1995–08.10.1997)” in the Gennadius Library gardens.

In the gardens of the Gennadius Library, another library is created by Turkish artist Banu Cennetoglu: 145 slabs of lithographic limestone bear the words of the diary of Gurbetelli Ersöz, a Kurdish revolutionary from Turkey. The diary was once published as a book and has now been condemned to vanish. “She’s trying to show a new sort of version or a new way of reproducing a diary that the authorities want burned, and have burned, and want non visible,” reflected Georgopoulou.

Over the next 100 days visitors from all over the world are welcome to the Gennadus to celebrate the works and the library's participation in this significant art exhibit. “Having Documenta here is a wonderful opportunity,” concluded Georgopoulou. “The title is learning from Athens, and I hope Athens can learn as well.”


You can visit the exhibition at no charge during the opening hours of the Library:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday - 9:00 to 17:00
Thursday - 9:00 to 20:00
Saturday - 9:00 to 14:00

Please note the reduced hours during Easter break: The Gennadius Library will remain closed from Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm through Tuesday, April 18, 2017.