Adam Szymczyk. Photo: AS Emanuela De Santis / Anzenberger
As the director and chief curator of the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland. Szymczyk has organised a variety of international exhibitions featuring artists from around the world, including Paul Sietsema and Adriana Lara (both 2012), Sung Hwan Kim (2011), Moyra Davey (2010) and Danh Vo (2009). In 2011 he was awarded the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement at the Menil Foundation in Houston. With Elena Filipovic, he co-curated the 5th Berlin Biennial (2008). He has come a long way since his start as the co-founder of the Foksal Gallery Foundation in Warsaw in 1997.
Koyo Kouoh, the director of Dakar, Senegal’s Raw Material Company and speaker for the search committee, gave the verdict, along with the statement that "Adam Szymczyk stands for a close cooperation with artists. His projects are motivated by an insatiable curiosity, interlaced by integrity and research".
Documenta 14 has taken place every five years since 1955 in Kassel. Alongside the Venice Biennale, it is the most significant international review of contemporary art. The idea for inviting artists to this industrial city, flattened by the bombs of World War 2, was a way to deflect from its deplorable Nazi past. Over the decades the event has come to figure as a unique presentation of engaged and experimental artistic activity.
In the Spring of 2013 the head of documenta (and director of the Muzeum Fridericianum in Kassel) invited Joanna Mytkowska, director of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, to join the eight-person programme counsel. In November the committee announced their choice of Szymczyk from among three finalists in the last leg of the competition. Szymczyk has made a name for himself on the international artistic circuit for his unabashed approach to experimentalism and welcoming young artists to the scene. As an artist in his own right, he brings in multiple perspectives to the multidimensional forum that is contemporary art.
As the New York Times wrote of Szymczk in 2011,
is something of a curatorial rock star these days. Not only does he look and act the part — he is incredibly thin and tall with shaggy blond hair and has an aura of cool aloofness — but his reputation for being avant-garde in his approach to contemporary art has helped him become a sought-after curator.
In the same article, Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery in London, explained that Szymczyk is deft enough "to have his finger on the pulse and create the intellectual framework within which to understand it". Szymczyk has been known as a "talent scout" of sorts, introducing young and little-known artists with huge potential to the Kunsthalle in Basel, affording them a platform that they would otherwise have no access to. Which makes it a very exciting time indeed for the coming direction of documenta 14.
10.06 – 17.09.2017
Artistic director: Adam Szymczyk
Programme committee: Suzanne Cotter, Chris Dercon, Susanne Gaensheimer, Kim Hong-hee, Koyo Kouoh, Matthias Mühling, Joanna Mytkowska, Osvaldo Sánchez
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 22.11.2013. Translation by AMG based on the original article on culture.pl (with edits) 26.11.2013