The h3h biennial ‘A Deeper Shade of Soul’ will take place from 21 June to 3 August 2025.



Curator Nanda Janssen discovered that the three monastery communities in De Heilige Driehoek (The Holy Triangle) are veritable treasure troves filled to the brim with all sorts of immaterial valuables, from the values and principles underpinning monastic life to the area’s thrilling history. The monasteries can be a source of inspiration for outsiders – not just from a religious point of view, but also in the way of life, philosophy and attitude they exhibit. She sees the nuns as feminists avant la lettre, and the communities as exponents of sustainable living before the term was even invented, living on long-term “cathedral time” as they do. There also aren’t many people so radically unaffected by the herd mentality and the whim of the day. In our age of hardening discourse, it’s refreshing to see them stand up for the defenceless and the vulnerable.

Inspiration and meaning
Given the richness of the source material, the 2025 biennial won’t be based around a single central theme, in a break with prior editions. Instead, curator Nanda Janssen takes a kaleidoscopic approach. Three lines are intertwined, embodying a connection between religion, art and life. Inspiration and finding meaning will be the main tenets of this biennial. And how could they not? These two things are the core business of monastic communities, after all. This basis is subsequently interwoven with another pair of lines: monastery life and the histories of the monastery and convents, while drawing a connection to society and the challenges of the present time. Under this approach, the art becomes a materialisation of the soul of De Heilige Driehoek.

Monastic life
A number of works of art symbolise monastic life. The lives in monasteries may be led behind closed doors, but they still appeal to the imagination. Romantic ideas, clichés and preconceptions abound, so it’s time for a reality check. Monastic life is marked by a lot of elements that can fall by the wayside in an efficiency-driven society – finding a deeper meaning, peace and quiet, contemplation, and regularity. These highly sought-after aspects are evoked in various works. The monastic way of life is almost entirely ritualised. Works of art with a ritual nature take a closer look at rituals, both in the monastery and to the lay public.

Monastic history
Each of the three monasteries has a fascinating history and foundation that connects them to a multitude of places, countries, people, and movements. This fact stands in sharp contrast with the dominant mental image of abbeys as enclaves frozen in time. Art brings the histories of monasteries or their founders to life and draws them forward into the present. Norbert of Xanten, Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Benedict: idiosyncratic figures, each willing to go against the current. There’s not one of them whose life isn’t cut out for the Netflix movie treatment. Monastic history is marked by artisanal craft as well. As a source of income, these three monasteries kept specialised studios for crafts like pottery, calligraphy, book and manuscript restoration, Gobelin restoration, and icon painting. In an homage to the wisdom and skill exhibited by these artisans, a number of works will activate the artisanal side of the monasteries. New locations incorporated in the route during this edition include the pottery and the greenhouses where orchids were grown at a large scale.

Statement by Nanda Janssen, curator for the 2025 edition:

This biennial is a goldmine, I thought when I first came across it in 2021. The name alone is incredibly evocative – the “holy triangle”. This little patch of soil is just replete with layers. And it hosts three religious communities that don’t just take care of the unique landscape and the fabulous heritage buildings that dot it, but they really embody its soul. The religious context makes it much more than the sum of its parts. The three communities and the values they represent offer endless angles for an art manifestation. Art and religion are both ways of giving meaning to our lives under the sun, of trying to understand what it means to be human. They both stop and think about life and provide direction and insight. My aim is to draw a connection between this and the confusing times we live in, and to offer new ideas where possible.’