The sonsbeek exhibition was initiated in an effort to help Arnhem recover from the heavy damages the city suffered during the Second World War (The Battle of Arnhem). In 1948 the Arnhem alderman H.M.A Klompé was inspired by the open-air exhibition in Battersea Park, London, which led to the founding of sonsbeek exhibition. sonsbeek '49 combined art and the lush nature of Sonsbeek Park, and by doing so served as a mental salve for the traumatised inhabitants. sonsbeek '49 exceeded all expectations: 125,000 people visited the park and a triennale was started.
From this first edition in 1949, sonsbeek has contributed to and redefined international contemporary art. As one of the early international art projects after Venice Biennale (1895), Whitney Biennial (1932), and preceding Documenta (1955), sonsbeek has always been a pathbreaking exhibition for arts in public spaces. sonsbeek 2020 follows the legacy of iconic editions between 1949 and 2016, curated by the likes of Wim Beeren (1971), Saskia Bos (1986), Valery Smith (1993), Jan Hoet (2001), Anna Tilroe (2008) and ruangrupa (2016). Since 2016, sonsbeek has become a quadrennial exhibition.