Past Exhibitions

Harald Szeemann: Documenta 5

Curated by David Platzker
Organized by Independent Curators International (ICI)
October 26, 2012 to January 12, 2013
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 25, 6 to 9 p.m.


Curator's talk with David Platzker: Wednesday, October 24, 6:30 p.m.
Insite Gallery Tour with Ian Carr-Harris: Thursday, November 8, 6:30 p.m.
Insite Gallery Tour with Ruth Spitzer: Thursday, January 10, 6:30 p.m.
All events will be held at Onsite [at] OCAD U, 230 Richmond Street West.


Documenta originated in 1955 as part of Germany's Bundesgartenschau (Federal Horticultural Show), but the two spectacles quickly parted ways and by 1972, its fifth iteration, documenta had nothing flowery about it. Indeed, critics like Barbara Rose and Hilton Kramer castigated the show as "deranged" and "sadistic."

However, even Kramer admitted that something had changed with Documenta 5: dada-and its progeny, neo-dada-had become "established culture." Kramer meant it insultingly. For him, the avant-garde's absorption into the cultural mechanism it claimed to despise proved that it had been play-acting all along. And artists like Hans Haacke, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson and Carl Andre shared Kramer's reservations, Sandback and Andre (among others) withdrawing and Smithson contributing only a catalogue essay.

Unlikely though it may seem now, Documenta 5 wasn't the only trouble-making exhibition of the time: Hans Haacke's participation in MoMA's "Information" show (1970) and his solo show at the Guggenheim (1971) were similarly fraught, as was Daniel Buren's participation in the 6th Guggenheim International (1971). The art world was changing and, as we can see from forty years later, the change was permanent. The barrier between art and everything else, if not gone, was certainly permeable.

This legacy is the point of "Harald Szeemann: Documenta 5." Harald Szeemann was the legendary curator under whose stewardship this sprawling exhibition was organized. True to his wide-ranging interests, Szeemann expanded documenta to include performances and happenings along with painting and sculpture, effacing the boundary between art and everything else ("100 Days of Inquiry into Reality -- Today's Imagery" was his subtitle) and re-imagining documenta as a cultural and informational spectacle: a 100-day "process of mutually interrelated events." Merging an expansive understanding of art with a belief that anything and everything could be relevant to art's context, Szeemann's curatorial vision remains influential today.

"Harald Szeemann: Documenta 5" is part of ICI's Exhibitions in a Box series. Circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, this exhibition has been curated by David Platzker. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the ICI Board of Trustees; and ICI Benefactors Barbara and John Robinson. 

Documenta 5


199 Richmond St. W.
Toronto, ON
M5V 0H4

Free admission


Mondays: closed
Tuesdays: closed
Wednesdays: 12:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 12:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Fridays: 12:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Sundays: closed


Phone: 416-977-6000, Ext. 265


Francisco Alvarez

Dorene & Peter Milligan Executive Director, OCAD U Galleries

416-977-6000 Ext. 2201

Lisa Deanne Smith

Curator, Onsite Gallery

416-977-6000 Ext. 2208

Linda Columbus

Programs & Community Coordinator, Onsite Gallery

416-977-6000 ext 456