If you ask people from other regions of Germany what they know about Kassel then you will most probably get to hear three things:
- Something about the ugly city center that resulted from massive bombings in World War II and the idea that Kassel as a city is completely a mess (which is absolutely wrong).
- That the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe with the Herkules monument, the Schloß Wilhelmshöhe and the romantic castle Löwenburg is a UNESCO world heritage site.
- That every five years the city turns into a location of a giant international art exhibition – the documenta.
This art exhibition has become a symbol of the city and is a massive factor for Kassel being known to the world. Nearly 900.000 visitors get to see the documenta within 100 days. The city then is overcrowed, the wireless networks in the city center break down and the inhabitants even offer garages as places to sleep at.
The documenta is seen as the most important series of exhibitions of contemporary art. It was initiated by Arnold Bode, an artist born at Kassel in 1900. The first documenta was in 1955, the latest – documenta fifteen – in 2022. The documenta 16 will fill the city with more international flair in 2027.
Main location of most documenta exhibitions is the Fridericianum in the city center, but every time different places throughout the city are included. Some artworks have a connection to the city and the places they are presented at. And sometimes these – or artworks that the inhabitants fall in love with – remain.
Examples for this are the Idee di Pietra at the Karlsaue, the Laserscape laser light installation, the giant pickaxe at the Fuldaaue, the man walking to the sky in front of the Kulturbahnhof, the obelisk at the Treppenstraße, Joseph Beuys 7000 oaks distributed throughout the city, the Arkansas Black Apple Tree in the Karlsaue, the Traumschiff Tante Olga not far away from the railway station Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, the figure group Die Fremden at the Friedrichsplatz, Ein Granitblock next to the Neue Galerie, the Rahmenbau (Landschaft im Dia) – a frame making the landscape an artwork -, the Vertikaler Erdkilometer in front of the Fridericianum or the Aschrottbrunnen hidden in the place in front of the town hall.