It's a Questions of Power, Isn't It?

Looking back on Sonsbeek20→24: Force Times Distance


Last summer the 12th edition of the international sonsbeek exhibition took place at more than 14 locations throughout Arnhem and a part of the province of Gelderland. Looking back, we can proudly state that, despite the great uncertainty and all the problems surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, sonsbeek was successfully realised!

The quality and rigour of this edition’s programming was celebrated by visitors and artists alike. Many appreciated how it engaged with the critical issues of our time in an authentic way that was inspired by current debates within the cultural sector. Force Times Distance: On Labour and its Sonic Ecologies grappled with questions of care work, precarious labour conditions, informal and criminalised labour, universal basic income, labour and access to health care and education, labour and abuse of power and social protection, as well as the way race, class, gender, and religion frame training and career prospects.

Within the Netherlands, newspapers such as NRC, Volkskrant and Trouw reviewed the exhibition. Internationally, platforms from more than 13 countries devoted attention to Force Times Distance, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Spain (documentary). Highlights from the international press included: Artforum, Frieze, Monopol, BBC World News, Artnews, BBC Africa, La Estrella de Panamá, Cameroon Magazine and the Frankfurther Allgemeine Zeitung.

This edition created a vibrant network of more than 20 partnerships, comprising creative, educational, pro-motional, and venue collaborations. The partnerships were proactive and engaging, from co-commissioning to forming collaborative programmes. For larger cultural institutions who partnered with sonsbeek, they became an opportunity for boosting visibility, developing programmes collaboratively and supporting new ideas collectively. Alongside these institutional partnerships, we collaborated with new groups, from smaller grass-roots and community organisations, who do not typically contribute to arts-based initiatives.

Over the course of this edition, we produced over 200 engagement opportunities across all platforms and actively worked with over 100 artists/contributors. Their contributions were included in the exhibition, public and live events programme, radio, educational projects and publishing.

Our highlights

  • We had 148,000 visits.
  • We engaged with 150 volunteers, including students from ArtEZ and refugees.
  • The festival brought in €2.8 million as contribution to the regional economy.
  • We hosted 44 artworks in 14 unique locations.
  • We partnered with 14 cultural institutions and organisations for exhibiting the artworks.
  • We hosted 72 events during the 2 months manifestation
  • We presented 40 artists, of which 90% brought their international positions and perspectives to sonsbeek.
  • We developed 10 educational projects, with over 400 participants.
  • The exhibition produced an impressive 350,000 impressions in the national and 800,000 in the international media.
  • Expanded our digital audience with 12,700 visitors in two months.
  • 43% of visitors traveled to us from outside Arnhem.
  • 97% of visitors welcome the exhibition and the investment.
  • 75% of our visitors would be in favour of a larger-scale approach to sonsbeek 2024.
Julieta Aranda, Time will tell: an unreadable script takes shape and then destroys itself, 2021, photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk
Julieta Aranda, Time will tell: an unreadable script takes shape and then destroys itself, 2021, photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk

Additionally we are pleased to announce, two artworks that were commissioned will remain in Arnhem. The municipality of Arnhem is currently exploring the permanent realization of the work Respire, the world begins with trees by Jennifer Tee. A test strip has been laid out at the intended location of the artwork. Before the summer we will hear whether the work will be definitively acquired.

For the remainder of 2022, we continue to host with our partner Kröller-Müller Museum, Julieta Aranda’s Time will tell: an unreadable script takes shape and then destroys Itself (2021). A large scale sculpture, commissioned for the 12th edition. Please be sure to visit the work and the Museum for its extended presentation, until the end of this year.

In addition, the film Hier by Wendelien van Oldenborg was acquired by Museum Arnhem. Much of the artwork was filmed inside Museum Arnhem, whilst the renovation was underway. As we move towards May, we also look forward to celebrating the reopening of Museum Arnhem. It’s anticipated that a number of special artworks, from previous Sonsbeek editions, will again be on display in the museum's sculpture garden, of which, includes Louie Cordero's colourful ping-pong table, entitled Pong, from Sonsbeek '16: transACTION.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to Sonsbeek20-24. We are looking forward to the anniversary edition 75 year sonsbeek in 2024 and hope to see you there again!

In the meantime, sonsbeek 20→24 will manifest itself in various ways, with the first moment being the exhibition Abstracting Parables at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, which opens July 1 2022.

Read more on our results here & see our updated press section to look back at our journey so far.


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