The Kassel documenta has come to be the largest and most highly regarded exhibition of contemporary art in the world. In the meantime staged every five years, this show – or world art show, as many like to call it – poses questions regarding the nature and role of art and of the practice of exhibiting art each time it is held. In doing so, it makes a significant contribution to the discourse and the self-understanding of the discipline.
The enormous quantity of material that comes together in the preparation and realization of this unique exhibition event inspired the founder of the documenta Arnold Bode with the idea of establishing an archive for the documenta already in 1961. It was clear to Bode that the materials from previous documenta exhibitions would be an indispensable basis for the preparation of subsequent shows. To begin with, therefore, the files and materials and correspondence of each documenta team and its employees formed the core of the institution's collection, which grew exponentially from exhibition to exhibition.
In addition, the documenta Archive is the home of one of the most important specialty libraries for art of the 20th and 21 centuries in Germany, an extensive collection of press clippings as well as a constantly growing media archive that supplements the diverse materials of the collection with multimedia resources. The bequests of Arnold Bode, Hans Hillmann and Harry Kramer as well as the private archive of Floris M. Neusüss are also among the treasures contained in the Archive.