14 Startling Images From the Documenta Art Exhibition

Art in Documenta 13, the world’s most important art exhibition, which opens Saturday in Kassel, Germany, includes everything from a woman biting her nails to a science experiment performed as art.

Lucy Hogg

The world’s most important art show is called Documenta, and it is held every five years in the modest German city of Kassel. Its thirteenth edition just opened to the public, and it is bigger—and maybe better—than most recent ones. It may be better because it is bigger. With a roster of almost 200 artists, there’s a vast range of work to take in, from Bronze Age statuettes to the poignant drawings of Charlotte Salomon, gassed by the Nazis at 26, to the most deluxe of modernist dog runs.  My full review appears elsewhere on the Daily Beast, while this slide-show presents more of the art. 

— Blake Gopnik

Lucy Hogg

Ceal Floyer

Ceal Floyer performing her piece called “Nailbiting” at the press preview of Documenta 13 in Kassel—capturing how all artists and organizers must feel as a major show opens. A microphone captured every crack as her teeth bit into her nails.

Lucy Hogg

Giuseppe Penone

In 1998, Giuseppe Penone took a real river stone and had it copied in marble, for the piece called “Essere fiume 6” (“To Be A River 6”).

Lucy Hogg

A hanging about the Spanish Civil War, woven by Norwegian communist Hannah Ryggen in 1936–a year before Picasso painted “Guernica.” Ryggen was mixing art and politics long before today’s most political young artists were born.

Blake Gopnik

Science Equipment

At Documenta 13, scientists from the lab of Anton Zeilinger perform quantum physics experiments–as art.

Lucy Hogg

Mario Garcia Torres

A visitor watches a video by Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres. His Documenta project consisted of seeking out the fate of a Kabul hotel once run by the great Italian artist Alighiero Boetti.

Lucy Hogg

Kader Attia

A detail from “The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures,” an ambitious new installation by the French artist Kader Attia. It riffs on repairs to soldiers’ bodies, after World War I, and to the “bodies” of African art.

Lucy Hogg

Lara Favaretto

For her Documenta project called “Momentary Monument IV,” Italian artist Lara Favaretto simply accumulated piles of discarded metal in one place, then chose a few pieces from that pile to be shown, as high-end sculpture, in a white-cube gallery space.

Lucy Hogg

Lara Favaretto

The second part of “Momentary Monument IV,” by Lara Favaretto, sets some junk in a gallery.

Lucy Hogg

Istvan Csakany

Istvan Csakany’s “Sewing Room” pairs an entire sweatshop carved from wood with some of its possible products.

Lucy Hogg

Song Dong

For “Doing Nothing Garden,” Chinese artist Song Dong piled a 30-foot mound of kitchen and garden refuse in the middle of the elegant, Enlightenment Karlsaue park.

Lucy Hogg

Anna Maria Maiolino

Anna Maria Maiolino, born in Italy in 1942 but a long-time resident of Brazil, filled a small house in Kassel with endless bits of fresh clay.

Lucy Hogg

Pierre Huyghe

Talk about hairdos: For “Untilled,” the French artist Pierre Huyghe put a statue of a female nude in the middle of a giant compost dump, and wrapped its head in a beehive.

Lucy Hogg

Shinro Ohtake

A detail from Shinro Ohtake’s “Mon Cheri: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed,” set in the middle of the 18th-century Karlsaue park in Kassel.

Photo by Lucy Hogg

A Clock by Anri Sala, at Documenta

Dali, eat your heart out: Albanian artist Anri Sala distorts a real, working clock at the Documenta 13 art festival that just opened in Kassel, Germany.