Symposium 2015

(Hard Talk on) Soft Power

In 2015, ArtTable Netherlands celebrated its 10th anniversary with an international symposium at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The symposium took place on Thursday, November 26th, 2015, prior to the opening of the Amsterdam Art Weekend.

Subject of the symposium was the concept of “soft power”, coined by the American political scientist Joseph Nye in the 1990’s as the ability to convince others of certain values ​​and ideals, without resorting to the “hard power” of muscles, weapons or money.

The symposium consisted of a morning and an afternoon session, each with two roundtables. In the morning, we explored the relationship between soft power and women. Soft power is often associated with a feminine form of leadership, a form based on seduction and negotiation and equality. But is soft power actually ‘feminine’? And is this leadership style reserved for women only? In the afternoon, we focused on soft power and cultural diplomacy. What is the role of art in international relations? Can art be used to promote cultural understanding and avoid cultural misunderstandings? Or should the autonomy of art be better protected against these impulses to ‘instrumentalize’ art?

These and other questions were discussed by a host of international speakers, including: John Holden (British writer on cultural diplomacy), Renilde Steeghs (Ambassador International Cultural Cooperation), Beatrix Ruf (Director Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), Wim Pijbes (Director Rijksmuseum), Hedwig Saam (Director National Military Museum), Hedwig Fijen (Director Manifesta), Abdellah Karroum (Director Mathaf, Qatar), Reem Fadda (Curator Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and 6th Marrakech Biennale), Touria El Glaoui (Founder and Director 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair), Katerina Gregos (Independent curator and Artistic Director of Art Brussels), Defne Ayas (Director Witte de With), b (Director The New Institute), Saskia Bos (Dean of The Cooper Union, New York), Barbara Visser (Artist, President of the Academy of Arts), Metahaven (Studio for Design and Research), Wendelien van Oldenborgh (Artist) and others. Moderator: Stephan Sanders (Columnist, writer, presenter)

Download the programme guide HERE

The symposium also included a special performance by Alexis Blake. This performance Allegory of the Painted Woman is an encounter between two female dancers in a choreography based on poses of women in classical painting. The performance takes place in the Gallery of Honour of the Rijksmuseum – amidst the masterpieces by the great male artists of the seventeenth century.

See the trailer of the performance at the bottom of this page. 

Allegory of the Painted Woman

Video’s symposium



Round Table 1

Round Up Discussion 1

Round Table 2

Round Up Discussion 2

Performance “Allegory of the Painted Woman” by Alexis Blake

Performed in the Rijksmuseum, 2015
Part of ArtTable Nederland symposium, [Hard Talk on] Soft Power
©Allegory of the Painted Woman, Alexis Blake, 2012–2015
Dancers: Marika Meoli + Revé Terborg
Musicians: Rita Mendes, Heleen Oomen, Daniel Sánchez Marcos + Gerd Wensink
Camera: Robert Berger

The symposium was part of Amsterdam Art Weekend and made possible by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, the Mondriaan Fund and the Rijksmuseum.