Global grandeur at the Sonsbeek sculpture exhibit

July 2008 -

Grandeur is the theme of the tenth edition of the sculpture exhibit in Sonsbeek Park. Curator Anna Tilroe wanted artists to search for 'human grandeur'. This endeavour was not limited to the western art world. They were able to land a few big artists from Africa and Latin America, such as the Argentine Tomas Saraceno and the Ghanian El Anatsui, for the project - sometimes after a number of entreaties.


Sculpture from Les 9 Notables by Joseph Sumégné

Saraceno's work, in particular, is characterised by a utopian desire for a better world.
For years, the Argentine has literally created his own castles in the air in the form of large balloon constructions. In Africa, he constructed a floating hospital. His artwork in Sonsbeek, which hangs like a low-hanging cloud between the beech trees, contains a greenhouse.

The three African participants El Anatsui, Joseph Sumégné (Cameroon) and Willem Boshoff (South Africa) emphasize community as an aspect of human grandeur. For twenty years, Sumégné has been working on a sculpture group consisting of nine wise men made of scrap auto parts, rubber, wood from demolished buildings, horn and beads: The 9 Notables. In Cameroon, as advisors to the government, notables occupy an important position within the community. In Sonsbeek, nine wise men are grouped along the edge of a Large Pond, a fascinating tableau.

El Anatsui - the best contemporary African artist in many people’s opinion - focuses on community another way. He had three sheets, carpets of flattened bottle caps, created by women from a village in Nigeria. His art work, draped over rhododendrons at the park entrance, functions as an important eye-catcher at Sonsbeek 2008. Like Sumégné, El Anatsui prefers to work with waste materials. "Artists are better off if they find their materials in the environment in which they live,” he once said. He rejects the professional materials used by many artists in the West as 'uninteresting'.

Whereas Sumégné and El Anatsui play with old trash, Boshoff plays with words. During a walk through Sonsbeek, he was inspired by the wind that whistled through the leaves. But he was looking for community, as well. He found the word for wind in all parts of the world and had some South African women sew a number of these words in plastic flowers on large nets that wave in the wind like leaves. Together Saraceno and his African colleagues give this Sonsbeek global grandeur.

The contributions by El Anatsui, Joseph Sumégné, Willem Boshoff and Tomas Saraceno to Sonsbeek 2008 were supported by the Hivos-NCDO Culture Fund and the DOEN Foundation. The exhibition is open till September 21, 2008.