The start of documenta fifteen in a few days is eagerly awaited. Anyone who visits the world art exhibition in Kassel can also explore the remaining outdoor works from previous exhibitions, which characterize the cityscape.

Every five years, Kassel becomes a Mecca for art fans. On June 18, the 15th edition of the 100-day documenta starts, which is considered the most important presentation of contemporary art alongside the Venice Biennale. During a visit, it is also worth taking a look at the remaining works from previous editions. A selection:

Documenta 6 in 1977 left a particularly large number of traces in Kassel. Although you have to look closely to discover the vertical kilometer of the earth. On Friedrichsplatz near the statue of Landgrave Friedrich II, all that can be seen of the work of American artist Walter De Maria is a small brass disk in a sandstone slab. The rest, a 1,000 meter long brass rod, was embedded in the ground and remains hidden from view.

The framework of the Haus-Rucker-Co group of artists, on the other hand, is visible from afar. The walk-in sculpture, which consists of a frame construction with a smaller frame hanging over it, is located above the Gustav Mahler staircase. The view is guided from the large through the small frame and focuses on the orangery in the Karlsaue.

Every Saturday, the world’s first permanent laser light sculpture in public space adorns Kassel’s night sky. The green and red beam of Horst H. Baumann’s Laserscapes connects the Hercules, the Orangery, the Hessian State Museum and the Karlsaue and thus the most important historical landmarks of the city.

Initially controversial, but now an integral part of the cityscape are the 7000 oaks by Joseph Beuys. With the help of volunteers, he planted 7,000 trees at various locations in Kassel over the course of several years – each with an accompanying basalt stone. In addition, 7000 basalt stelae were stored on Friedrichsplatz in front of the Fridericianum until they were used – much to the annoyance of the citizens of Kassel. The more trees were planted, the smaller the stone sculpture became. The landscape artwork was presented to the public at documenta 7 in 1982 and completed in 1987 for documenta 8.

Also in 1982, Claes Oldenburg placed Die Pickaxe on the banks of the Fulda near the wire bridge. The oversized monument of the tool refers to Kassel’s reconstruction. According to Oldenburg, Hercules, who is enthroned in the Bergpark above Kassel, threw the pickaxe there.

The strangers on the portico of the fashion house SinnLeffers on Friedrichsplatz have embodied exclusion and a lack of integration since documenta 9 in 1992. The three human ceramic figures of different ethnic and geographical origins, stranded with their luggage on the columned portal of the former Red Palace, appear helpless and isolated. With downcast eyes, they watch the hustle and bustle on Friedrichsplatz below them, without being able to take part in city life.

Jonathan Borofsky’s Man Walking to the Sky, also a relic of documenta 9, seems to be relentlessly striving upwards. A male figure, referred to by the citizens of Kassel as a stormer to heaven, strides briskly and resolutely towards the sky on a steel tube. The tube is 25 meters long and has an angle of inclination of 63 degrees. On the forecourt of the Kulturbahnhof Kassel, it rises 15 meters into the air.

Since documenta 13 in 2012, the Idea di Pietra artwork on the edge of the Karlsaue near the Gustav Mahler staircase has invited speculation. Known as the «Penone Tree», the around nine meter high sculpture by the artist Giuseppe Penone consists of a bronze cast of a walnut tree. Its branches are heavily trimmed and it carries a granite boulder in its crown. As with the question of the chicken and the egg, it remains open here too whether the boulder was pushed up from the tree or the stone fell from the sky.

Olu Oguibe’s The Strangers and Refugees Monument provided a great deal of material for discussion after documenta 14 five years ago. The work of art in the form of an obelisk bears the gilded inscription “I was a stranger and you took me in” – a quote from the Gospel of Matthew – in the four languages ​​most commonly spoken in Kassel, Arabic, German, English and Turkish. During the documenta it stood on the Königsplatz. Nigerian-American artist Oguibe wanted it to stay there. However, a majority of city councilors rejected it. The city finally removed the memorial from Königsplatz in an unannounced action and stored it in a building yard. Oguibe then agreed to move the obelisk to the new location proposed by the city. The memorial finally found its place in the stairs street.