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Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category

Nindityo Adipurnomo talks with Art Radar on “+Road” collaboration with Myanmar artists, “gambling spirit” of Indonesian collectors

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


ART PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW INDONESIAN ART EVENTS

In an Art Radar Asia exclusive interview with Cemeti founder Nindityo Adipurnomo, we hear the fascinating story of their latest venture working collaboratively with artists from Myanmar.  Read on to learn how cultural conflicts and artistic disappointments were eventually resolved.

New Zero Art Space in Myanmar and Cemeti Art House in Indonesia joined hands in June this year to present the collaborative project and exhibition “+Road|5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists in Yogyakarta.

Within a tight schedule of two weeks, five Burmese artists and five Indonesian artists interacted and produced performances, videos and installations.

These creations acted as a language through which the two distinctive cultures could communicate their differences, resolve conflicts and move closer to mutual understanding.

The five participating Myanmar artists included Aye Ko, (Executive Director of New Zero Art Space), May Moe Thu, Htoo Aung Kyaw, Nwe (Thin Lei Nwe) and Zoncy (Zon Sapal Phyu). The five Indonesian artists were Doger Panorsa, Ikhsan Syahirul Alim (Ican), Restu Ratnaningtyas, Ristyanto Cahyo Wibowo and Wibowo Adi Utama.

To understand more about how the collaborative project came into being, how the event was viewed by the local art community, and to gain some insight into the Indonesian art scene, Art Radar Asia spoke with Nindityo Adipurnomo, one of the executive directors of Cemeti Art House.

+Road| 5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists, a collaborative exhibition currently being held at Indonesian art gallery, Cemeti Art House.

From a commercial art promotion to a cross-cultural art exchange project

Nindityo Adipurnomo explained that the idea of collaboration between the two art spaces was initiated by Aye Ko, Myanmar artist and director of New Zero Art Space and Community New Zero Art Space. Ko thought that, by hosting a project of this kind, New Zero Art Space might land an exchange grant from the Asian Cultural Council in New York. With this in mind, Ko proposed the idea to Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, co-owners/coordinators of the renowned Indonesian gallery Cemeti Art House and winners of the 2006 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Awards, who expressed a keen interest.

Art censored in Burma

The couple saw “+Road” as an excellent opportunity to develop networks within regions such as Myanmar. They had learnt much from New Zero Art Space and they had been seeking opportunities to cooperate with them since attending the New Zero Art Space organised 2007 ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange Program, an event open only to members of the space. Of the programme, Adipurnomo recalled how each of the artists, gallery owners and art activists who participated had to bring along a single painting of a limited size with no political message. The night before the event, the Burmese police came and censored the art works on display, and removed the works of four Burmese artists. Despite this horrific episode, the programme was fruitful; each of the art activists present conducted informative talks.

In addition, “+Road”‘s aims were in line with the project-based platform Cemeti Art House has been working under since the beginning of 2010. This new platform focuses on an alternative approach to art and society in Indonesia. They have a successful model to follow; Landing Soon (2006-2009) was a three year exchange program in which one Dutch artist and one Indonesian artist resided in Yogyakarta and received assistance, guidance, and support from the studio manager through weekly progress reports.

“The reason [for launching the new platform] was because we were fed up with all the exhibition models, art fairs, auctions in Indonesia; [these events] never pay attention to invest in a kind of  healthy regeneration of the art scene. No, I’m one hundred percent sure that they do not realise this. The Indonesian commercial art scene has been investing in promotion only.” Nindityo Adipurnom

Conflicting goals of Burmese and Indonesians

However, it turned out Aye Ko wasn’t thinking about the kind of collaborative exhibition Adipurnomo had in mind. Basically, he just wanted to use Cemeti’s exhibition space for a group exhibition of five Myanmar artists and five Indonesian artists, where published catalogues could distributed. His commercial approach to the collaboration, which did not aim to provide any platform for meaningful interactions among artists, was certainly not what Cemeti Art House wanted.

“We did not want to only organise a promotional exhibition that has no interesting curatorial subject, not being involved in how artists go through their process before presenting their works in exhibition. And so we, in the end, asked [the artists] to just come to Yogyakarta; not bring any paintings with them. Instead, each of [the artists] should be well prepared with an individual artwork presentation in Power Point to see what we can do together.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Jaarsma and Adipurnomo tried carefully to intervene and transform the  cooperation into a “mutual exchange project” instead: a program involving short events such as artists’ talks, discussions, workshops and master classes, allowing both groups of artists to understand each other better and create possibilities for a deeper collaboration, with an exhibition as the end goal. And in Jaarsma and Adipurnomo’s eyes, it was a success. “+Road” became a truly collaborative project for the ten artists involved, where they could engage themselves in intensive cultural exchanges and meaningful interactions.

Mix of talents strongly affects resulting artwork

The choice of the five Burmese artists and the five Indonesian artists was made separately by New Zero Art Space and Cemeti Art House respectively. Adipurnomo launched an open application, attracting nearly seventy artists, and selected five from this group. He admits to being disappointed with the choice made by New Zero Art Space. Among the five Burmese artists, only two were professional artists, while the rest of them were new members of New Zero Art Space and were very amateur beginners. In contrast, the Yogyakarta artists selected by Cemeti Art House had a lot professional experience.

Disappointment at Cemeti

“[The Burmese artists] are bad painters: they cannot draw, have no sense of colour and have, in fact, a very superficial sense of  exploring materials… While our local Yogyakarta artists you can see, … that they were very well trained academically, strong and skillfull in model drawings, sketches, colours, well experienced in treating materials with good sense.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Burmese artists favour performance art, political art

Although the Burmese artists were generally inexperienced painters, their strength lay in performance art, an artistic skill which the Yogyakarta artists were either still developing or not interested in exploring.

“My very personal observation was that the artists from Yangoon were very much into performance art. They are very direct, expressive and always fulled of political intentions in their performance. They really use their body as the most direct tool and medium…. It often becomes a physical movement that is very close to a dance performance. One of our local artists participating in this project was [hesitant] to join the workshop on performance!” Nindityo Adipurnomo

This mix of opposing artistic strengths, differences which became very apparent during the workshops, influenced what was produced for the exhibition finale. “+Road” showcased a lot of video works and photographs, and a smaller number of installation and performance pieces, with no paintings at all.

Zon Sapal Phyu's 'Revolution of Own Space' (mixed media).

Aye Ko's 'No Money, Hungry, Hard Eating' (photography, video).

Wibowo Adi Utama's 'Art-NARCHY' (video).

Ikhsan Syahirul Alim's 'Commando Dance' (video, karaoke).

More opportunities open up future collaboration

Overall, Cemeti Art House viewed the collaboration as a successful pilot project, achieving its aim of engaging artists from two cultures in interactions that led to a gradual mutual understanding.

“[The] major understanding [the artists] did have was cultural dialogues. This is something that I find you can not just improvise in an Internet facilitation. You really need to [be] facing each other. Building up your assumptions, making a lot of missunderstandings and opening up conflicts, so that in the end you will understand each other better. We did ask every Indonesian artist to be a partner everyday by sitting on the same motorcycle – one motorcycle for two artists – during the two week intensive dialogue…. The time was just too short for so many reasons. But now we know better how to handle and open up more networks with young artists, who are really willing to continue in a deeper context.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Working towards a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene

Adipurnomo considers Cemeti Art House to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene, which has grown largely commercially up to this point. From “rumours and a very quick-glimpse analyzation and observation”, he suggests that banks have been gaining control of the Indonesian art market.

Banking money makes a mark in the Indonesian art market

“In the beginning, [art] was dominated by rich people around the tobacco industry. Of course, Dr. Oei Hong Djien was the respected ‘pioneer’ of the Indonesian collectors, among many others who were more nationally known; Dr. Oei Hong Djien is going international quickly. He was also very generous in educating and influencing many other rich Chinese people in the tobacco industry to invest their capital in art. Starting from that mile stone, Indonesian art dealers and collectors [were] growing fast. Most of [these collectors] were hunting names instead of, you know, a ‘quality’. They created many kinds of tricks in order to get as many ‘big names’ as possible, which they could easily call ‘masterpiece’ makers. Auctions and art fairs were becoming a medium for them to gamble in so many tricky ways. This rapid growth of gambling spirit stimulated many other rich people, out of this tobacco industry, to borrow money from banks to join this gambling. That is the way banks are now getting involved. A lot of bankers started to invest their capital in the arts.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

New Jogyakarta Art Fair attracts outside collectors

With the opening of the Jogyakarta Art Fair recently, art dealers and bankers, many of whom had never visited the region before, flocked to Cemeti Art House to see what was happening. This is, perhaps, further evidence that the Indonesian arts scene is commercialising.

“Cemeti Art House is considered to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the art scene. We have only been ‘fighting’ for that faith for so long. Of course, we are not the only ones. There are many others, such us Ruang Rupa in Jakarta, and the new comers like JARF (Jatiwangi Artists in Residence Festival), Forum Lenteng, and many other smaller scale [organisations] who come up and disappear and come up with different formulas [only] to dissappear again.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Myanmar artists, Indonesian artists, art spaces, collaborative art

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Pop culture references abound in Indonesian art: curator Eva McGovern discusses Indieguerillas’ Happy Victims and the Southeast Asian art climate

Posted by artradar on June 23, 2010


INDONESIAN CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY EXHIBITION

Indieguerillas is made up of Indonesian husband-and-wife duo Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti, whose artistic skills stem from roots in the design industry. Known for their smooth blending of pop culture aesthetics, subtle social commentary and use of traditional Javanese folklore elements, Indieguerillas presented “Happy Victims“, their latest solo exhibition, at Valentine Willie Fine Art Singapore.

The title “Happy Victims” reflects the fact that consumers have willingly but unconsciously become dominated by capitalist spending customs – people no longer spend only for pure necessity, but now spend to gain symbols of status and success. Touching on this popular subject, Indieguerillas’ renderings are colourful and uplifting. A good sense of humour and playful attitude draw the viewer in to investigate the relationships between various elements in their works: sneakers, Mao’s headshot, Astro Boy, Colonel Sanders, Javanese folklore characters.

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

The Southeast Asian art scene is both fascinating and difficult, elements which are highlighted in “Happy Victims” and can be attributed to the area’s diversity and rich cultural history. Art Radar Asia spoke with Eva McGovern, the exhibition’s curator, to talk about Indieguerillas, the show, Southeast Asian art, and her experiences working in the region.

Can you describe the process of curating Indieguerillas’ “Happy Victims”? How did you generate the idea?

As it is a solo show by Indieguerillas, the central idea of “happy victims of the capitalism and the material world” was generated by the artists themselves. The curator provides the support structure. One of my personal interests is in urban and youth culture and street style, so I got to know the two artists about 18 months ago and visited their studio. We discussed their idea together, taking inspirations from urban culture.

What’s unique about the Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti working as a duo?

Miko and Santi have worked together since 1999 and formed Indieguerillas professionally in 2002. The husband-and-wife team usually conceptualise together for the overall big picture. Then, Miko usually makes the initial design and outlines the images while Santi creates the details. They share similar interests in urban and youth culture, which is a big part of their lives. Their works are the visual output of how they live their lives basically.

What’s the unique quality of Indieguerillas’ works compared to other contemporary Indonesian art? Is it their use of youth culture?

It is actually very popular in contemporary Indonesian art creation to incorporate urban culture elements. For example, there is a huge mural tradition in Yogyakarta [which is] common and well celebrated. Younger artists are very interested in this dimension and Indonesia is a very playful place. So lots of humour [and] social comedies can be seen in contemporary Indonesian art.

There are two striking things about Indieguerillas: first, the fact that they work as a husband-and-wife team; second, their proficient experimentation with multiple medium – paintings, installation, design, etc. They benefit from their position as designers by training. Graphic design influences the way they construct their works where there is a considerable amount of experimental energy. They do some commercial work as well, and operate between the two worlds – fine art and commercial art.

Hunter-Gatherer Society III  Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

Hunter-Gatherer Society III Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you elaborate more on the overlapping between fine art and design manifested in their works?

While design has an imbedded sense of usefulness and fine art is not about being useful, the line between fine art and design is a very flexible one. Indieguerillas do make merchandise and T-shirts, and customised sneakers. In terms of the show [“Happy Victim”], objects are fine art. It can be a bit dangerous trying to block down Indieguerillas in any camp. In this post-modern world, anything goes really.

Design is more acceptable in a way because it can reflect the pop culture we are in. People enjoy looking at design objects, which implies that power comes with an entertaining medium, so artists can convey their messages more effectively. Indieguerillas are not making political comments but simply observations, incorporating Javanese folklore. It is about how things meet and collide together. Even if no one gets the message behind, the beautiful design with its youth finish is pleasing to look at; viewers can just get a sense of enjoyment when looking at the execution of their works. Their works become a bit more sinister as you spend more time looking at it.

By lifting and restyling the Javanese folklore and wayang (shadow puppetry) and mixing them with comical and urban objects such as briefcase and sneakers, Indieguerillas display their sense of cultural pride while connecting with the younger audience.

Across contemporary Indonesian art, is it common that the traditional elements are reinvented to adapt to the new context?

The trauma of political events is still very resonating to people. Traditional culture is still very influential and you can never really escape it. The younger generation of Indonesian artists are more focused on asking themselves about their identities: what it means to be “Indonesian”, what it means to live in the 21st century…. They try to deal with these issues in an open-ended playful way. Indonesian art has many discourses around these issues, supported by solid academic writings.

The Marionette Faithful, Screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate & digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010, Courtesy of artists and VWFA

The Marionette Faithful, screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate and digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you share with us your views on the art scene in Southeast Asia and any regional differences you noticed, in particular, between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore?

It can be troublesome when trying to discuss generally and authoritatively such a complex region [as] Southeast Asia. If I were to make some observations, I would say:

Indonesia:

It is much bigger and has many more artists producing a huge volume of interesting art. There are many more art centres in the country too: Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta. The nature of the communities in the country is very creative and art is well integrated into daily life. Art and creativity is celebrated here.

There is stronger international funding compared to Malaysia and the country’s link to Holland is still very productive in terms of arts funding, cross cultural dialogues, residencies and exhibitions. Overall, Indonesian artists have more confidence about being “artists”.

Malaysia:

Having gained its independence in 1957, the country is much influenced by being more multi-racial. Malaysia has a challenging funding structure for the art, because it is not appreciated or valued as much. Institutionally, the country does not have an intellectual voice guiding or analyzing contemporary art. There are not enough curators and writers. Commercial galleries are leading the way of what kind of art is being bought and seen.

Since the 1990s, artists turned their preoccupation to social commentary and released their frustration in their works. There are several camps of artists: market-friendly traditionalists who are locally inspired and interested in abstract expressionist and realist painting, and the more international groups doing conceptual, performative and installation based work.

Singapore:

There are a lot less artists but the funding stream is well established. The country has a set of well integrated resources, such as biennales and art fairs. It is facing a top-heavy situation: it has an internationally influenced strategy on top, while due to the strict censorship, art creation is much more challenging in terms of producing politically critical work.

What is often seen is some beautifully crafted installation [work] and engagement with international critical theory and conceptual practive. Artists could be more provocative in terms of social commentary, but they are unable or don’t want to do so in this slick and modern, and financially stable, country.

Can you share with us your personal experiences working in the region? How did you first start working in Malaysia?

I came to Malaysia in 2008. Prior to that, I worked in London at a major gallery for four years. I am half English, half Malaysian. Before coming back, I got interested in the burgeoning Southeast Asian art scene and was getting a sense of what is going on. In London, a lot of my time was devoted to facilitating other people’s programmes and I did not have time to research on topics I was interested in.

After I came back, I started writing for a lot of magazines, so I forced myself to think critically. Then I started to teach Malaysian art history in Singapore. I was invited to be part of a group curatorial show on Southeast Asian in February 2009 in Hong Kong. I also work as the Managing Editor of Arteri, an arts blog that looks at Malaysian and  Southeast Asian art. I was accepting a lot of opportunities coming my way in order to figure out what my true interests were. I will be joining Valentine Willie Fine Art to become their regional curator soon.

Back here, hierarchy is not as tight as in London or the US. One is able to connect with the artists and make tangible contributions. Unlike being a small fish in a huge over saturated pond, I feel I am part of a growing changing scene. I find it very inspiring and rewarding to work with people with shared experiences, who are committed to doing something great.

SXB/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artists, curators, interviews

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What is Indonesian style? Jumaldi Alfi on the art, style and Jogja – interview

Posted by artradar on November 25, 2009


CONTEMPORARY INDONESIAN ART

The Sotheby’s success of contemporary Indonesian artists like  I Nyoman Masriadi, who sold  a single painting for more than $245,000 USD at auction on October 6th, 2009 in Hong Kong, has grabbed the attention of the art world. There finally appears to be much international interest in art from the politically heated Southeast Asian island nation. However, what is Indonesian art, and is there an ‘Indonesian style’? Art Radar Asia researcher Erin Wooters discusses the emerging style from this part of the art world with renowned Indonesian artist Jumaldi Alfi at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong before the opening of the ‘Diverse 40 x 40’ exhibition, which features the works of Alfi, Andy Dewantoro, and Nasirun.

Renewal/ Verjungung Series 3-A, by Jumaldi Alfi, 2009. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of Sin Sin Fine Art.

Jumaldi Alfi, born July 19th 1973, is from Padang in West Sumatra, and studied in Java at the Indonesian High School of the Arts and then the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Jogja (also known as Yogyakarta or Jogjakarta.) In 2008 his work sold for upwards of $35,000 USD at Sotheby’s,  and he has experienced continued success in 2009. He describes his complicated journey to becoming an artist:

Alfi: My family has a poetry culture. My uncle is a poet and my family prepared me to be appointed to his position, because in our clan we need someone to talk to people with symbolic words. My uncle taught me, but I couldn’t [take his position], because in our poetic culture you need to have very focused writing, from the first to the last word, or else the meaning is gone… Honestly, I did not always want to be an artist. I thought I would follow my uncle, because of our bloodline. But when I chose to be an artist for my career, my mom wanted to know why. They thought artists were not disciplined, so stinky, long hair..

Q: What do you think makes Indonesian art different or unique from other Southeast Asian art?

Alfi: Eighty percent of the artists stay in Jogja.. In Indonesia, especially in Jojga, we live together and have an open community, keeping and sharing the energy… We open our hearts, not just the brain.

Q: So you think the way the people interact is special and different, and that’s what makes the art different?

Alfi: Yea, the place! The city is open, individual, and very personal. Jojgakarta is a small city, and feels like all family. If I am bored or depressed when working in my studio late at night, I can go out, places will still be open, and many artists will be there. I think it’s good. We talk, and then I am back to my studio with a renewed energy.

Q: Is there anything else that makes Indonesian art unique or different from other Southeast Asian art?

Alfi: Yes, our heart.

Renewal /Verjungung Series 2-B, by Jumaldi Alfi, 2009. Acrylic on Canvas. Image courtesy of Sin Sin Fine Art

Q: Are there any subject matters or themes relating Indonesian art?

Alfi: Honestly, we don’t have a connector in Indonesian art. You can’t find something and say – Oh, this is Indonesian style. You can see the style is very modern. We use Western techinique. We use oil and acrylic, but still you can feel it is not Western. It is not Western because when we start working, we don’t use our brain first. We use our feeling, it’s about feeling. If we’re inspired, we work. If not, we stop.

Q: I see. That touches on the next question, which is if there is a distinct ‘Indonesian style’.

Alfi: We don’t have an Indonesian style. Indonesia is only a nation. A nation- basically, we are different. West Sumatra and Java are different. The language, the culture, the food, the character, and the emotional feeling are different. The Javanese people are more defensive than the Sumatrans. Sumatrans are more progressive, and have more heart. Javanese are more quiet.

Q: What is Jogja surrealism, and what inspired it?

Alfi: The 80’s! Jojga surrealism and abstract expressionism is the generation from the 1980’s. In Jojga, the painting is not only surreal, the situation is surreal. Many modern people live there but still believe in traditional mysticism. The surrealism concept in Indonesia and in the West is totally different.

Q: Is your art spiritually inspired or a response to the spirituality in Indonesia?

Alfi: Yes, very much. [It is] not conceptual. Art is the way for me to understand myself.

Renewal /Verjungung Series 4-B, by Jumaldi Alfi, 2009. Acrylic on Canvas. Image courtesy of Sin Sin Fine Art.

Q:  Is there a central theme in your artwork or a certain idea you are exploring?

Alfi: It is my idea of myself. It is about myself and what I’m feeling. If you want to know the people, know yourself. If you know yourself, you know the people.

Q: How did you meet Sin Sin?

Alfi: I think we found each other because of her karma and my karma. When I first met her my English was really bad and we couldn’t talk, but when I showed her my work she understood. I felt good energy, and that is very important to me. I knew it was a good situation. I believe in the connection of body language and the aura. Sometimes you meet people you don’t know, but you want to help them. After one minute, you feel like old friends.

Q: What is the nationality of your major collectors?

Alfi: Mostly Indonesian, although the art is making its way to Europe. I think 80% of my collectors are concerned with investment and business, and the rest are serious art lovers.

Jumaldi Alfi is currently exhibiting at Sin Sin Fine Art’s “Diverse- 40 x 40” with fellow Indonesian artists Andy Dewantoro and Nasirun. The show runs from Nov 12- Dec 13, 2009.

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Posted in Gallery shows, Heart art, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Indonesian, Interviews, Jumadli Alfi, Painting, Self, Spiritual, Surrealist | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sin Sin, Hong Kong gallerist and Indonesian art specialist, on recently flourishing Indonesian art scene- interview-

Posted by artradar on September 9, 2009


INDONESIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

Sin Sin, Hong Kong curator, artist, and designer

Sin Sin, Hong Kong curator, artist, and designer

It was a sweltering Hong Kong afternoon, and I was feeling scattered after running through Hong Kong’s charmingly retro Hollywood Road district in search of the renowned Sin Sin Atelier. Upon discovering it, I was escorted into Sin Sin’s office, which was unlike any ‘office’ I have ever seen. I felt I had stumbled upon an oasis of tranquility within Central, or a secret inner sanctum. Clearly I had found a special place, and a very special woman. Her name is Sin Sin, and she was kind enough to spend some of her time speaking with Art Radar.

To be blunt, Sin Sin is the reigning queen of Indonesian art in Hong Kong. A well-traveled ‘lifestyle designer’, she opened the Sin Sin Atelier in 1998, which features her personally designed collection of Southeast Asian inspired clothing, handbags, and jewelry. She also runs the Sin Sin Fine Art Gallery, which is widely considered to be among the most prominent art galleries in Hong Kong, and represents the best artists from Indonesia and around the world. The Sin Sin Annex, located across from the atelier, displays progressive installation and performance art, and serves as a public space for artist lectures. Sin Sin’s establishments are distinguished as Hong Kong’s only art spaces specializing in Indonesian art.

Also, as though Sin Sin weren’t multi-tasking enough, art lovers traveling to Bali in Indonesia can stay at Villa Sin Sin, Sin Sin’s 3 signature villas designed in collaboration with star-architect Gianni Francione, which surround guests in Balinese art and Indonesian beauty.

But questions remain, what makes this energetic art maven tick? Why is she working with Indonesian art in Hong Kong, and what insight can she offer into the Southeast Asian art scene? Read on for more.

Humble Hong Kong beginnings

Sin Sin now deals in artworks from all around the world and wistfully describes art as the ‘taste of life’, but once upon a time she was a Hong Kong Chinese girl growing up in a Chinese incense-filled temple in the rural mountainous Diamond Hill area of Kowloon, Hong Kong, and lived alongside native clans people.

Born into a devout Catholic family in the late 50’s, she studied at a Catholic school. As far her education beyond that, she is proud to be self-taught and comments, “I wasn’t into academics… I was always involved in creative activities, like acting, dancing, singing… There is an ancient Chinese saying about my approach to education. Roughly translated it means I would rather gain life experience by walking my journey.”

A true free spirit, she says that she always wanted a career in art, but her highly successful career has been spontaneous rather than strategic. She remarks, “I didn’t plan this, you can’t plan.” When she is not making and managing art at her atelier, she can be found performing Chinese opera, practicing calligraphy, or traveling and enjoying life.

Eddie Hara, Yunizar

Left: Monster City, by I Gusti Ngurah Buda, 2007. Middle: Big Mouth Says Nothing, by Eddie Hara, 2005. Right: Frizzy Buddha, by Yunizar, 2004.

Lucky eye for art

She always had a keen eye for art, and her ability to pluck artwork that will appreciate in the future from far-flung galleries is uncanny. She describes her first experience buying art, which was 18 years ago in Vietnam, when she bought a piece for a few hundred US dollars that is now estimated to be worth 30-50 times what she paid:

“Years ago [1991] when I was starting to collect art, I was lucky to see the work of Bùi Xuân Phái in Vietnam. I felt strongly attracted by his work, and wanted to learn more about him… It happens to have appreciated quite a lot, but it is extremely special to me for the way it makes me feel.”

“West is mature, the East is upcoming”

Sin Sin has a connection to multiple places and cultures, including Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and mainland China. She explains:

“I appreciate the earthiness of these cultures, the simple and beautiful life of the people. Of course I’ve traveled to the States and Europe, but when I was younger the West didn’t speak to my soul yet. Their attitudes are developed, not exciting and new. There is no pleasure in the modern world… In the East there is something new, but under developed. You can feel the suffering and people waiting to be discovered. It speaks more to the soul, more natural, more earthy… West is mature, the East is upcoming.”

Regarding her extensive travels, Sin Sin says, “I love India, Shangri-la, Yunan… Bali and Indonesia was amazing energy for my 20’s, so many people go and never come home. And people there are willing and wanting to do something, there are so many possibilities when things are cheaper. Now there is a different need in my life. I go to places like Tuscany and Switzerland. [Also] there is different energy in Yunan, it is mysterious, powerful, and severe, but in a calm and peaceful way.”

Bob Sick, Eddie Hara, and Putu

Left: Family, by Bob Sick Yudhita, 2007. Middle: Postcards From the Alps 29, by Eddie Hara, 2003. Right: Where Are My Wings, by Putu Sutawijaya, 2007.

Why Indonesian art?

Sin Sin has been cultivating close relationships with Indonesian artists for the past 6 years. She does not speak Indonesian Bahasar yet she does not experience barriers communicating with the artists: “That is part of the beauty between me and the artists, we still understand.”

So why is Sin Sin so interested in Indonesian art? She explains:

“It makes me happy to see them [the artists and communities] grow. They are open, free, and they share. When one artist sells, it is good for the group. I don’t want to say mission- but, I want to share the beauty of this part of the world. I’ve traveled to Indonesia for about 24 years, and I fell in love, even though there are things to hate, like there are in any country. But, I loved the nature and the culture, that it’s between Hindu and Muslim, and it’s so beautiful. Who doesn’t like this? It is full of color, freedom, the beauty of nature, and ceremony. You feel free as a bird.”

The Indonesian Invasion Exhibition

Sin Sin credits curating the Indonesian Invasion exhibition as the favorite project of her career, and it was certainly a significant event in the Asian art world. It stands as the largest and most important survey of contemporary Indonesian art that has ever been shown outside of Indonesia. It took place April 2- May 15, 2008 at the Sin Sin Annex and Atelier, featuring 14 of the most notable Indonesian artists of this generation. Each artist was chosen for his distinct individuality, and most already had prior success selling at auction. The following artists were included:

Bob Sick YudhitaEddie HaraEntang WiharsoI Gusti Ngurah Buda Jumaldi AlfiMuhamad IrfanPande Ketut Taman

Putu SutawijayaRudi MantofaniS. Teddy DarmawanTisna SanjayaUgo UntoroYunizarZulkarnaini

Enin Supriyanto, an Indonesian curator, also contributed to the exhibition with his lecture ‘The Contemporary and Sub-Cultures: A Slice of Indonesian Contemporary Art,’ on March 31, 2008 at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Center. This lecture was recorded and is currently accessible to the public at the Asia Art Archive.  The Indonesian Invasion exhibition was also documented by Roland Hagenberg, and his coverage and artist interviews are available on Youtube.

Kokok sculpture and paintings

Left: Cutting Soldier, by Kokok Sancoko, 2009. Middle: Painting #11, by Kokok Sancoko, 2009. Right: Painting #15, by Kokok Sancoko.

Sin Sin on the Indonesian Art Scene

Q: Which artists do you collect and admire?

“I admire so many… I don’t put myself in a box, like, this is the only kind of work I like- boring! It depends on the message they channel. I like primitive and contemporary. I appreciate ancient things. I would also like to see Western artists inspired by the East, and Eastern artists inspired by the West, but this takes time…”

“Of Indonesian artists, I collect YunizarRudi MantofaniPutu Sutawijaya, S. Teddy Darmawan, and Jumaldi Alfi. Of Chinese artists, I collect Sun Guangyi,  Wong How Man, Wong Yan Kwai, and Niu An (Ann New). Overseas artists in my collection include Rolf Lorenz [UK], and Rick Lewis [USA].”

Q: Who is the most significant Indonesian artist right now?

“I love them all, the beauty is that they are all individual and different. YunizarPutu Sutawijaya, Rudi Mantofani, and Jumaldi Alfi are very established, and their work is difficult to get because they are very hot at the moment… Bob Sick Yudhita is one of a kind. He is a real, true artist, and works in a street art style, like Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

Kokok Sancoko is among the most prominent upcoming artists, and is a great observer. His work gives viewers a lot of room to think.”

S. Teddy Darmawan is an artist who is never afraid of taking risks and making art with many possibilities. There is no doubt of Teddy’s passion to the art world.”

Sin Sin describes a big jump in the Indonesian art scene recently (in the past 2-3 years) and for the first time is seeing interest from the West and overseas. Coincidentally, Indonesia was classified as a ‘Next 11’ country by Goldman Sachs in 2005, a country with a newly emerging economy with optimistic outlook for investment. Sin Sin agrees these shifts in world affairs ‘obviously’ appear to correspond to the contemporary art market, because citizens are finally becoming monied enough to purchase their own cultural symbols, and the international profile of a country rises and gains esteem among other nations, which will also purchase the artwork from that country. Hence, Indonesian art is finally making its way to New York City.

Q: Who are the professionals you most admire and enjoy working with in Indonesian art?

Enin Supriyanto, a curator of Indonesian art. He knows it and is supportive, and gives his honest idea.

Q: Which institutions do you recommend to art lovers in Indonesia?

Komaneka Fine Art Gallery in Bali, a casual Ubud gallery, and the Nadi Fine Art Gallery in Jakarta.

Q: Where are most Indonesian artists educated?

The most artists are in Jogja [Yogyakarta, also Jogja, Yogya, Jogjakart], and the school is there [Indonesian Institute of the Arts]. Most artists are trained at this one school.

Q: I noticed your formal title on your website is ‘Lifestyle Creator’. What is a lifestyle creator?

I’m involved in all aspects of creative design. Sometimes I’m a curator, a designer, and sometimes I feel like a producer when I put so much of my energy into a project. Who am I, then? Call me an artist, a creator.

Q: What future projects are you excited about?

Something I’m planning, but can’t speak on yet. I’m also interested in creating a show overseas. It is a beauty for people to see another part of the world like this. I’m looking for the right gallery, and I’m ready to see what we can collaborate overseas. I am based here to contribute something to my society, but I’m sure my artists want to go further, and I’d like to take them far away. I’d like to take the East to the West to show the new vision of the East. As a Hong Kong Chinese, I want to introduce this artwork, because I believe people want to know things but do not have access. Or maybe people want to know but don’t know who to talk to. Maybe I can have a contribution here.

Sin Sin’s Advice

For artists starting out:

Starting is easy! It’s like a honeymoon. If you decided, don’t give up, because it will be difficult. But I would say to artists from China, Laos, Indonesia… Why do you want to do this? Everyone discourages an artist, and being a 100% artist is so hard. They want to be free, okay, but everything comes with a price. This is the choice. It is a difficult way to go, especially in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s history is less than 50 years as a developed city, since the 1960’s. But now, art helps people… Now is like a revolution, and people should focus on life and have more energy.

For artists approaching galleries:

Do research, see what work the gallery represents and if your work matches. Then you can approach by sending something, pictures.

For new collectors:

Well, I don’t know the stock market, but if I want to buy a stock, I’d go to a good broker. If I want to buy art, I’d go to a gallery with a collection that is appealing to me, and start there.

The Sin Sin Atelier and Annex is located at 52-53 Sai Street, in Central Hong Kong, and the Sin Sin Fine Art Gallery is at 1 Prince’s Terrace, Mid-levels, Hong Kong.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Historically important Indonesian gallery Cemeti closes…to change focus

Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


INDONESIAN ART GALLERY

Update: 14 May 2009

As rumours swirl in the blogosphere, we are pleased to report that there is a more nuanced story to the Cemeti closure. Mella Jaarsma at Cemeti Art House tells us that the closing will be temporary and will be followed by a change in focus.

We will close cemeti from 1 August till 1 November, because we are going to build some studios. The idea is that we are not going to continue our monthly changing exhibitions, but we will continue and focus more on residency programs and special projects. So we will still do exhibitions and presentations, but we hope to have more time on developing specific projects, publications etc.

Thanks and best wishes, Mella
We thank Mella and contributors for helping us clarify this report and wish Cemeti all the best as it changes focus.

_________________________

 

 

With sadness we learn that the acclaimed Indonesian gallery Cemeti Art House is to close this summer.

The artist husband and wife team Nindityo Adipurnomo and Mella Jaarsma who founded the Yogyakarta-based gallery in 1988,  has made an unparalleled contribution to the development of Indonesian contemporary art.

In 2006 the couple was awarded the prestigious John D. Rockefeller 3rd award for Professional Achievement for their commitment to developing Indonesian artists. The annual award is presented by the New York-based Asian Cultural Council to individuals from Asia and the United States who have made a particularly significant contribution to art in Asia.

What Mella and Nindityo  – the first Indonesian recipients of the Award – cared about was how to accommodate new and alternative creativity that did not have a chance in well-established art galleries. Being artists themselves they knew the pain of unrecognised creations and took it upon themselves to establish such a space so necessary to young upcoming artists.

Part of the house they were renting in Yogyakarta became the Cemeti Gallery which came to play a key role in the shaping of a virtually new generation of artists in Yogyakarta and beyond. It was here that now renowned artists like Heri Dono, Edi Hara, IGAK Murniasih (Murni) started their rise to fame.

What made Cemeti different from other galleries was that it was non-commercial, that the gallery owners continued to be engaged with artists after their exhibition closed and introduced artists to an increasingly wider network within and outside Indonesian borders.

This included keeping up with the artist’s creative development, updating their biodata and recommending them for scholarships, participation in biennials and triennials, and sending them to artist residencies and exchanges, and organizing stimulating projects.

It was of cardinal importance that Jaarsma and Nindityo maintained impeccable management of the gallery and its activities. Over time, they became the most trustworthy resource for local artists to enter the international art world.

Jakarta Post Nov 12 2006

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Inspiring art in important Indonesian art shows Spring 2009

Posted by artradar on April 17, 2009


INDONESIAN ART REVIEWS

Indonesian art has proved a real inspiration in these times of cynicism and economic despair says Adeline Ooi after her tour of some of the most important exhibitions of Indonesian art around Southeast Asia this spring. Read on for her reviews.

 

Installation at Fluid Zones in Jakarta Biennale

Installation at Fluid Zones in Jakarta Biennale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jakarta Biennale 2009

My year began with a trip to the Indonesian capital to visit Jakarta Biennale at the end of February. Despite severe budget limitations, which have meant that each of its main components has lasted for just a month or less, the 2009 instalment of the Biennale is probably one of the most well received in Indonesia in recent years.

ARE(N)A -this year’s biennale theme, takes Jakarta, and then Southeast Asia in the world, as its playground, without any grandstanding. The modesty and clarity of the curatorial approach is refreshing. “Fluid Zones” is the central visual art element, which maps Southeast Asian artists under 40 and also works by other international artists made during recent residencies in the region. Curator Agung Hujatnikajennong from Selasar Sunaryo has pulled together a tight and revealing show spread over the Galeri Nasional and the new mall Grand Indonesia, leading us intuitively through the rough and tumble of Southeast Asian chaos via subtle thematic and strategic resonances.

There was no shock-and-awe, and nothing in particular that was mind blowing (perhaps due to familiarity with many of the artists and some of the works), but the overall sense of engagement, the intimacy and personal commitment of the show makes this a truly meaningful experience.

 

Jumaldi Alfi, I Like to see myself as a Prophet, Jendela

Jumaldi Alfi, I Like to see myself as a Prophet, Jendela

 

JENDELA in Singapore – first exhibition outside Indonesia


Ten days later, my colleagues and I drove down to Singapore for JENDELA group’s exhibition “A Play of the Ordinary” at National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum. This is a momentous event for the group as it is their first major exhibition outside Indonesia.

Combining old works dating as far back as 1999 with new ones, “A Play of the Ordinary” traces the group’s development over the past decade. Working in a distinctive visual symbolic language, using still life and landscape forms, these five artists from West Sumatra have differentiated themselves from a predominantly figurative-based and socio-politically driven Indonesian art context and are now leading figures in their own right.

As we walked through each thematically curated room, we witnessed the artists’ maturing styles, their unusual humour and wit, as well as the close friendship and influence they have on each other’s artistic development.
Kelompok Seni Rupa JENDELA or JENDELA Art Group comprises Jumaldi Alfi, Handiwirman Saputra, Rudi Mantofani, Yunizar and Yusra Martunus. Meaning ‘window’ both in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia, JENDELA members have become key players in Indonesia, and are also recognised as major artists in the contemporary regional art scene.

Not only have they impacted their local scene through their individual and collective practice, members of the group are also passionate promoters of Indonesian art, driven by a sense of duty ¬-‘to give back’. Jumaldi Alfi has recently opened a residency programme in Yogyakarta for college students, researchers, and curator who wish to learn more about Indonesian art.

 Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet) characters from Eko Nugroho's "Hidden Violence" show

Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet) characters from Eko Nugroho's "Hidden Violence" show

 

Eko Nugroho at Cemeti Art House


Eko Nugroho’s “Hidden Violence” at Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta is the other major March highlight. This rising young star has carved a name for himself through his multi-disciplinary practice, agilely interpreting his comic inspired works through a range of media, from fanzines to mural, from drawings to large-scale embroidery, from 3-dimensional objects sculptures to multi-media installations.

Eko has since ventured into unchartered territory through his latest contemporary ‘wayang kulit’ (shadow puppets) presentation. Fusing the old with the new, the artist has collaborated with local wayang makers or artisans to create a cast of part-man part-machine characters from his sci-fi apocalyptic world.

Eko’s updated version also defies a number of strict rules attributed to this traditional performing art :

1) the characters are not fixed characters and can potentially play villain and/or hero at any time.

2) the soundtrack is an amalgamation of sounds from electronically and digitally generated soundscapes to hip-hop music, and

3) there is more than one story teller (dalang) and

4) the stories relate to the everyday as well as political issues in his surroundings.

Beyond the gleeful laughter of a mischievous provocateur, Eko’s work tends to hit a few home truths, holding up a mirror to contemporary Indonesian society and human nature in general, exposing mankind’s contradictory nature, our quirks and flaws.

 

 

Yuli Prayitno's chair sculpture "I Can't Get Now Satisfaction (2007-2009)"

Yuli Prayitno's chair sculpture "I Can't Get Now Satisfaction (2007-2009)"

 

Yuli Prayitno at Nadi Gallery

Finally, Yuli Prayitno’s much awaited solo exhibition at Nadi Gallery in Jakarta entitled ” I Love…”, opened on April Fool’s day after a near two year delay.

This young promising Yogyakarta based sculptor, also an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, launched into control freak mode a year ago and decided to do away with assistants. The delay is truly worth the wait and the quality speaks for itself; the time taken to make each object contributes to the value of the work. Fine finishing, beautiful treatment of material and form, a witty imagination and sardonic humour are among the main reasons why local collectors covet Prayitno’s works. This exhibition should not be missed.

Where and when

Jakarta Biennale 2009
Fluid Zone: Traffic and Mapping
7 – 27 Feb. 2009
National Gallery Jakarta
Grand Indonesia Shopping Mall, East Side
http://www.jakartabiennale.com

Jendela – A Play of the Ordinary
27 February – 19 April 2009
National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum, Singapore
http://www.nus.edu.sg/museum/exhibitions_jendela.html

Eko Nugroho; Hidden Violence
17 March – 18 April 2009
Cemeti Art House
Jl. D.I. Panjaitan 41, Yogyakarta 55143
http://www.cemetiarthouse.com

Yuli Prayitno: “I Love…”
April 1-13, 2009
Nadi Gallery
Jl. Kembang Indah III, Blok G3 No. 4-5, Puri Indah, Jakarta 11610
http://www.nadigallery.com

Contributed by Adeline Ooi, a curator and arts writer from Malaysia. She is the co-director of RogueArt, an art consultancy specialising in Southeast Asian art and will be talking soon in Hong Kong at the Asia Art Forum lecture series in May 2009. Find out more by clicking the link.

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Overview Indonesian art – Only 5 of 50 auctionable artists today will have lasting value

Posted by artradar on March 2, 2009


INDONESIAN CONTEMPORARY ART HISTORY

This long – save it for lunch-time! –  informative reportage piece written in 2008 is about the history of Indonesian contemporary art up to and including the 2008 art boom. Michael Vatikiotis employs anecdotes, artist interviews and on the ground research to describe  key influences and players. A surprising finding is that dealers and collectors are saying that only five artists will have lasting value which Vatikiotis points out ” is not a legacy in a country of more than two hundred and thirty million people”.

Putu Sutawijaya

Putu Sutawijaya

Riding the Indonesian art boom

Jogjakarta a city of artists

Jogjakarta is a city of artists. On every corner of Central Java’s ancient royal city there is an aspiring painter with good reasons to be hopeful. A handful of painters have sold their work at auction for tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Used to Being Stripped, a painting by Nyoman Masriadi, a native of Bali who lives in the city, fetched US$538,000 at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong in May 2008. ‘It used to be that parents cried when their children said they wanted to be artists, well not anymore,’ says Agus Suwage, a local artist whose works have been shown internationally and now command hundred thousand dollar prices at auction.

Indonesian art holds its value

Jogjakarta’s art boom is part of an Asia-wide trend that has seen the value of contemporary art from countries like India, China, Vietnam and the Philippines as well as Indonesia soar to phenomenal heights on the back of fears
about inflation and the security of more liquid assets. In May last year, the hammer went down on a painting by the popular Chinese artist Zheng Fanzhi for US$9.7 million at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong. The global financial crisis
that set in towards the end of 2008 has badly affected the Chinese art boom, but dealers in South-East Asia say that so far prices for Indonesian art have held up well because art remains a refuge for investors fleeing stocks.

Jogja’s bizarre political landscape

Jogja is a sprawling medium-sized Indonesian city of three million people steeped in the tradition of Javanese kingship. Sultan Hamengkubuwono X rules the city and its immediate area in one of the more bizarre autonomy
arrangements – a feudal king holds sway over a tiny part of a modern republic. Indonesians don’t see a contradiction; the current Sultan’s father, Hamengkubuwono IX, played a central role in the anti-colonial struggle and was briefly
vice president of the republic. The current Sultan has presidential aspirations.

Jogja produces avant-garde art alongside traditional

Although a thoroughly modern ruler in many ways – he is very fond of square dancing – the Sultan presides over a culture that resists change. The people of Jogja revere him, wearing traditional long batik sarongs with delicately decorated daggers placed in the small of their backs on formal occasions. They believe in the dark mysteries of Javanese mythology – that the Sultan communes with the Goddess of the Southern Seas to keep the forces of nature in
balance. Yet this exquisitely preserved-in-aspic city produces some of the more avant-garde modern artists of South-East Asia and has turned some into relative millionaires.

Colonial past sustains Indonesian artisanship

Jogja is more than a relic. The city is one of the very few cities in the region with a heritage that is preserved – under royal patronage – with tourism in mind, of course. Restored Dutch colonial era buildings and old royal residences
have become offices and hotels. This has helped sustain a lively artisan community.
Mas Sugeng, who has meticulously created wayang kulit shadow puppets out of buffalo hide since he learnt the art from his father as a child, considers himself ‘a craftsmen rather than an artist’ as I admire the breathtaking handpainted colour and carved detail on his delicately created images of Rama and Sita.

The modern artists reflect a transition from the talent of artisans like Mas Sugeng to the modern art the world seems to want to buy – at ridiculous prices.

Ten years ago, Jogja visitors were led down narrow alleyways to view stacks of unspectacular batik paintings gathering dust in disorderly garrets hugging the whitewashed palace walls. The motifs veered wildly from the earthy traditional to lurid pop; Hanuman and Arjuna rubbed shoulders with Bob Marley and Che Guevara. Serious painting was something young people went to Bali to pursue. Today, Balinese artists flock to Jogja, where artists’ studios are now on the tourist map.

Early interest in Indonesian contemporary art dates to beginning of 90s

The boom came suddenly. Early interest in contemporary Indonesian art dates back to the go-go capitalism in the early 1990s. Indonesia was just opening up and a new class of wealthy private entrepreneurs had cash to spend. Many of the wealthiest people in Indonesia are ethnic Chinese. Buying Indonesian art was a way of demonstrating national loyalty. Galleries in Jakarta did brisk business; the art was mostly relatively conservative expressionists drawing on
traditional themes – the whirling Balinese dancers of Srihadi Soedarsono, the demure Javanese maidens of Jiehan Sukmantara – decorative living room art, not the stuff of fortunes.

Effect of economic crisis 1997 and  fall of Suharto 1998

The local art market collapsed with the 1997 economic crisis. So did the political order. The seeds of the current art boom were sown in the political chaos and mayhem that accompanied the fall of Indonesia’s strongman President
Suharto in May 1998. Tastes in art changed, almost overnight. A fondness for decoration and curios was replaced by gritty, hard-edged socially engaged art.

Birth of hard-edged social art during transition to democracy

The movement reflected the profound changes in society unleashed by reformasi, Indonesia’s transition to democracy. ‘What reformasi actually gave Indonesians was access to intellectual thinking,’ Farah Wardani, a Jogja-based curator, told me as we sat in the forecourt of Indonesian Visual Art Archive, a foundation set up to document the development of fine art.

Cemeti Art House set up 1998

Jogja’s artists were already socially engaged but no one took them seriously enough to buy their work, which was considered risky and troubling before Suharto fell. Many of the artists were part of the student movement pushing for political change. Cemeti Art House, established in 1998 by Dutch artist Mella Jaarsma and her Javanese husband and collaborator Nindityo Adipurnomo, played a critical role in fostering these politically engaged artists.

Mella,a practising artist who specialises in installations and performance art, and Nindityo encouraged many of the artists who are major names today with exhibitions from the late 1980s. Their ability to fly under the official radar for
performances and exhibitions that were plainly subversive can be attributed, Mella says, to poorly educated intelligence operatives who didn’t understand what they were looking at.

Political art broke with traditional
Their politically engaged art broke with the decorative and traditional past. Art was no longer for tourists. It drew inspiration from the angry graffiti scrawled on city walls, was transferred to gritty comic books, circulated
in crudely stapled photocopied editions of a thousand or so and finally ended up on the canvases of students at Jogja’s prestigious Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI).

Popok Triwahyudi

Popok Triwahyudi

Popok Triwahyudi – cartoon style

Popok Triwahyudi is typical of the socially engaged Jogja artists. Many started out on the streets sketching for a living, touting tourists and singing themselves hoarse in rowdy late-night gatherings over a shared bowl of noodles and endless cups of insipid Javanese tea. Popok still looks like the street artist he once was. His tangle of curly black hair hasn’t been brushed in days and he sleeps on a bed that he folds up and puts away. Popok studied painting
at ISI in the 1990s. His first solo exhibition, Shut Up, was held at Cemeti in 1997. His cartoon-like figures depict grim and unrelenting repression. There is something Breugel-esque in the way Popok conveys the darkness and despair
in people’s lives – and then, with a touch of Roy Lichtenstein, he draws speech bubbles and his characters express this despair.
When I met Popok he was at work in his studio on a cartoon series on intercultural misunderstanding developed in collaboration with a German art house. Before he sold his first painting in the boom market, he rented a single
room; today he has taken over the premises and installed a heavy press so he can roll off graphic prints. A new Powerbook is perched on a desk in his studio, bought by the Germans. Popok looks perpetually surprised, as if he simply can’t believe that he can now indulge his creative urges and make a living.

Eko Nugroho

Eko Nugroho

Eko Nugroho
A little further out of the city, near the old Dutch sugar factory, Eko Nugroho’s modest little home in the middle of a farming village is hardly evidence of his remarkable success. Like Popok, Eko studied at ISI in the late 1990s. His
father was a newspaper delivery man for Jogja’s daily newspaper, Kedaulatan Rakyat. Eko’s first drawings were published as cartoons in the paper. His family was so poor he only found the money to pay for his first year at ISI by
winning a local cartoon contest.
Eko’s style is distinctive. Like Popok, he draws inspiration from cartoons. His characters, usually etched in black on coloured backdrops, are disembodied creatures, part-machine, part-animal, rarely unambiguously human ‘People lost in freedom,’ his website declares.

Like Popok, Eko also got his break at Cemeti. ‘There used to be a lot of galleries, but they only catered to traditional art and weren’t interested in what I had to say through my paintings,’ Eko says. ‘Cemeti did the avant-garde stuff.’ By 2005, his highly original caricatures were selling for upwards of US$2,000. By the beginning of 2008, quite modest-sized canvases were selling for more than US$30,000. Eko, who is thirty-one, has been invited to art fairs and residencies in Europe, China, the United States and Singapore.

Indonesian-Chinese art collectors

Most of the buyers of this modern art, by comparatively young and inexperienced artists, are still Indonesian – especially wealthy Indonesian-Chinese business people. Many are not Jakarta based, but from East and Central Java, home to some of the richest Indonesian-Chinese families. One major collector is Dr Oei Hong Djin, whose family owns the profi table Djarum Group – producers of a variety of consumer goods like clove cigarettes, televisions and spectacle frames, and owners of a major retail chain. Oei Hong Djin has been collecting Jogja artists for years – a sizable caricature at a major city intersection honours his continued patronage.

Soaring art prices

In part because Indonesian-Chinese interest in contemporary Indonesian art was the principal driver of the boom, there is a suspicion that what lay behind the soaring prices was not the intrinsic value of the art. Farah Wardani, who trained at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London, is frankly appalled at the prices. ‘Look, I don’t mind poppish eye candy, but not for US$20,000. It’s becoming more expensive than Prada.’ Old Indonesian masters like Affandi and Hendra Gunawan fetched high prices at auctions, but some of the young Jogja artists are selling for more. ‘It’s scary,’ says Farah.

Odeck Ariawan, a Balinese friend of mine who collects art and was also spooked by the boom. ‘I have no way of telling
whether what I am buying is going to be worth anything in the future.’ Farah’s frustration as a curator and Odeck’s caution as a buyer are driven by Indonesia’s paucity of established art criticism. Most curators work for private
galleries where commercial, not critical, considerations prevail. ‘It used to take an artist twenty years to reach an established level,’ Farah says. ‘Today you have young artists selling their first paintings for thousands of dollars.’

Indonesian art market manipulation
There is a lot more than art appreciation involved. One theory is that the buyers were looking for a safe place to park their money in an inflationary environment, another that paying cash for art requires less scrutiny than buying
property. There are stories of buyers who arrange for a painting to be put in an auction, and bid up the price to raise the value of the artist – having first bought up the rest of the artist’s production. The process is called goreng goreng
– Indonesian for ‘to fry’. ‘This is moving in the direction of becoming an industry,’ Farah complains. ‘Artists are being asked to produce on demand.’

Putu Sutawijaya – one of top 5 artists
The way the market works outrages many curators, who like to think they are the arbiters of fine art. Even artists are discomfited. Putu Sutawijaya was one of the first young artists to see his work reach phenomenal prices at auction.
Putu has the friendly nonchalance of the Balinese. He struggled for a decade after finishing his studies at ISI. By 2003, he recalls, he was selling paintings for two thousand dollars at most. Then in April 2008 one of his paintings sold
at an auction in Singapore for fifteen times its expected price. Looking for Wings was bid up from a reserve price of eight thousand Singapore dollars to reach one hundred and twenty thousand. Putu responded to his sudden wealth by
rolling up his paintings and hiding them. ‘I was worried. I felt all this pressure to sell for the same high price but what if my work is no good? That’s why I put away some paintings, just in case.’ Success has brought new opportunities
undreamed of in the local context. He spent two weeks in Beijing last year with his own booth at a major art fair and has secured a residency there. He is one of the top five painters in Jogja but fame and status have brought stress.
‘Before, I dreamed of being a well-known artist. Now I’m afraid of disappointment and failure.’

Impact of Valentine Willie, Malaysian art dealer

Valentine Willie, a Malaysian art dealer whose auctions in Singapore helped spark the boom, echoes these concerns. ‘When these artists were unknown they could experiment. They were free to make mistakes. Now they can’t afford to disappoint their buyers and this means they cannot change their style. It puts limits on their creative spirit.’
The art is losing its political edge. Popok’s social tableaux seem more optimistic and Eko’s fantastic automatons are becoming less menacing and cuddlier, set against warm pastel shades.

Art losing its political edge

Agus Suwage’s early work was intended to shock,like his inspiring installation The Final Journey which featured pigs’ skulls on roller skates. Today his themes seem almost sensual: a foot-sucking self-portrait in pink. A lot of the large Masriadi canvases going for high prices tend to be more or less variations on a standard theme – a procession of muscular bodies, male and female, in lurid outfits and provocative poses – a distant cry from his earlier socially engaged work.

The art is also growing in size. Collectors like to buy big and the painters are obliging, with Masriadi‘s, Agus Suwage’s and Putu‘s canvases often more than four square metres. The once socially-engaged artists are slowly becoming financially engaged to their buyers. There is a downside.

New art spaces supporting young artists

If you ask Agung Kurniawan, an artist who is emulating Cemeti with his own art space supporting young artists, the boom was bad, creating as many bankrupts as it did millionaires. ‘I have known many people suddenly get very rich and then just as suddenly they are poor again,’ he tells me as he prepares for his own solo exhibition in The Netherlands. But while I failed to meet any victims of the boom, most of the beneficiaries expressed concern about the future and humility that is characteristic of mainstream Javanese culture.
Putu believes in giving back to the local community. He and his Malaysian-Chinese wife Jenny have established an Art Space in the Nitiprayan district of the city where young artists can exhibit. ‘People struggle to find wall space in this city,’ says Putu, who has bought another piece of land nearby to expand.

Eko Nugroho takes his modesty to absurd lengths, but then his poor boy roots taught him to start sharing the wealth as soon as he earned it. One of the first things he did was to rebuild his neighbour’s house. Eko’s fondness for large, elaborately embroidered tapestries means he now employs dozens of skilled weavers. He has several assistants who help him with sculptures and installations. ‘They are not just helpers, I train them too,’ he says with an honest
smile. ‘I like working as a team; I find painting is too solitary.’ Eko is also the founder of a photocopied biannual art journal called Daging Tumbuh, which offers struggling young artists a chance to have their work showcased for free.
He distributes the journal to galleries and dealers in Jakarta as well as Jogja.

Art turns away from Islam

Flipping through Daging Tumbuh brings home another stark reality of the art boom: in a country regarded by most outsiders as sliding inexorably towards Islamic conservative rule, the young artists of Jogja are moving in the other direction. Agus Purnomo’s abstract canvases use all sorts of numeric and alphabetic symbols but he is reluctant to use Arabic calligraphy. They are catering to a non-Muslim market, but to be among them and see their art and how it has progressed is more of a challenge to one’s knowledge of Japanese and Western pop culture than the finer points of Muslim culture – more Ultraman than Mohammad.

Then there are those artists on the way up. I arrive at Stefan Buana’s modest home on the outskirts of the city. Canvases litter every room and an assistant is busy stretching fresh canvas on wooden frames. Stefan has a show in a month and is feverishly finishing a new collection of paintings. The West Sumatraborn painter has spent a long time toiling for success. Now his paintings fetch enough to pay for his collection of antique Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Yet Stefan isn’t so popular that he is a prisoner of the style that sells. He experiments with texture and material, plastering his canvases with sawdust, creating relief images with staples, cotton thread and even heavy pieces of scrap iron. Politics is an enduring theme for artists like Stefan, whose studio is littered with the broadly smiling visage of former Indonesian President Abdurahhman Wahid, who is fondly known as Gus Dur. Stefan beats old frying woks into the former president’s round faced image because, as he puts it, ‘Gus Dur believed in equality and welfare for all’.

Suharto as a theme
Former President Suharto is another surprising theme. Putu Sutawijaya is planning a series on the late dictator, who died in February 2008. Stefan Buana has created a two metre high stencilled image of Suharto by punching through an inch-thick iron sheet with a blow torch. The image is oddly flattering and recalls the contemporary Chinese love affair with pictures of Mao. This fascination with political leaders is a by-product of the politicised student activism these artists experienced. Perhaps in the new era of genuine democracy, they miss having someone to pillory.


Pop art culture collides with anti-Americanism

Young artists like Lugas Syllabus make success look easy. This fresh-faced native of Palembang who turned twenty-one in 2008 was about to embark on his first solo show in Singapore and looked forward to participating in the Brisbane Art Expo ‘Exist in 08′ that took place in October 2008. He is drawn to performance art and talks excitedly about his installation ‘Pinky and the Bush’. The pop culture Lugas grew up with infuses his imagery but then collides head on with the anti-Americanism spawned by the Bush administration’s war on terror. Fibreglass models of Pinky the white rat, from the cartoon series, and a smaller rat with a Bush-like visage are packed in Styrofoam and
ready to be shipped for his show. On his brand-new laptop, Lugas excitedly describes how the Bush-faced figure dances around a lit globe to the original Pinky and the Brain’s soundtrack. A series of images flash on to his laptop
screen: a killer whale in the desert, an ostrich in a snow drift. The images are edgy and expressive; the colours vivid, almost fluorescent. Nothing is meticulously drawn or detailed. There is something hallucinatory about them. ‘I like
contradictions,’ Lugas says simply, toggling between the laptop and a brand new mobile phone.

Arts management challenges

There is more, much more to see in Jogja; daily exhibitions and performances are announced on notice boards at Cemeti or Kedai Kebun, where Agung Kurniawan has his space. All this activity has generated a need for management. Most of the artists are either too young or too overwhelmed by rapid success to figure out the complexities of commissions and handling their collectors or dealers. Heri Pamed, a Jogja-based dealer, says that one of the artists
he helps, a stick-thin character covered in tattoos who calls himself Bob Sick, isn’t much of a help. ‘Bob Sick sells everything and then gives a lot of his work to friends, so his prices are coming down.’

Help is on the way. In a back room of a spacious house in the south of the city, several young boys are attaching brightly coloured lace brocade to small fibreglass replicas of Michelangelo’s David. It is laborious work and for Titarubi the Bandung-born artist who calls her show ‘Surrounding David’ it appears to represent a significant statement on manhood. When not wrapping David in coloured fabric, Titarubi – who is married to Agus Suwage – is setting up iCan, Jogya’s first arts management company. iCan has only been operating for
a month, so only two artists have signed up but Titarubi hopes to attract the younger talent eager to cash in on the boom more efficiently.

By now I am feeling a little bit like Farah Wardani: I’m not sure all this art is going to make it and is worth the asking price. The real test will be how many of these artists will we be hanging in national galleries and museums in a few
years. Until Indonesia acquires a more respected track record of critical appreciation and better museums and galleries, it is unlikely that any of them will be revered and remembered – some of the best works by Raden Saleh, Indonesia’s nineteenth century virtuoso portrait painter, hang to this day in The Netherlands.

Only 5 Indonesian artists will survive

The dealers and collectors I meet suggest that only a handful, no more than five of the fifty or so currently enjoying success at auction or through gallery sales, stand out as artists of lasting value. Jogjakarta may be a city of ten thousand artists, but five is not a legacy in a country of more than two hundred and thirty million people. Back in his little house behind the palace, I ask Mas Sugeng the puppet maker whether he sees his craft surviving. ‘Oh yes,’ he answers quite emphatically, ‘but not at quite the same level of skill. People simply aren’t willing to pay as much anymore for handicrafts.’

Michael Vatikiotis spent a week in Jogjakarta in 2008 to research this article. His story ‘In pursuit of faith’ appeared in Griffith REVIEW 18: In the Neighbourhood and is reproduced with permission.

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Seismic changes in Indonesian art scene since 2007 Borobodur auction

Posted by artradar on December 12, 2008


Jompet Kuswidananto

Jompet Kuswidananto

 

 

ART SCENE INDONESIA

As a side event of the Christie’s autumn sales, a lecture called “Keep on Watching! The Yogyakartan Art Scene Today” was given on 29 November 2008 by Cemeti Art House gallerist Mella Jaarsma. 

Today the Indonesian art scene is driven by the private sector  because of an almost total absence of art infrastructure and government support. Until 2007, the art scene in Indonesia was also overlooked by the international markets. For many years art production was driven purely by the desire for self expression  but since 2007 there have been some profound changes in the motivation, interests and techniques of artists, Mella Jaarsma explained.

Start of Indonesian art boom:  Borobodur auction Singapore October 2007

The Borobodur auction organised in collaboration with dealer Valentine Willie from Malaysia and held in Singapore less than eighteen months ago, was a turning point. Valentine Willie included contemporary works from Southeast Asia in the sale and produced a comprehensive accompanying catalogue explaining artists’ concepts and giving reviews of each Southeast Asian country.  Almost all the works were sold, many to non-Indonesian buyers. This had a powerful effect on the significant Indonesian collectors who already had a tradition of buying Modern Indonesian artists: now they were persuaded of the worth in contemporary Indonesian art too.

Impact on galleries: new galleries opening

As a result of the new market in contemporary art, many new galleries have been opening in Yogyakarta and the capital Jakarta. All the galleries are chasing the same artists however and in order to secure the best-selling artists, they pay high fees to ‘independent curators’ to secure the works of the ‘right’ artists. But the high fees demanded by the curators to bring in desired artists create a self-perpetuating dynamic which demands that galleries attract top-selling art just to survive. This means there is little interest by galleries in showing experimental or less marketable work.

Impact on curatorship: higher status but less independence

One of the positive repercussions of this art market ecology is that curators are now being given more status and opportunities: they get to travel (for example to art fairs) and to publish (in catalogues, books and art magazines). But in their role as paid brokers or middlemen between galleries and artists, they lose the independence which is commonly regarded as a valuable aspect of curatorship.

Impact on young artists: poor bio data

Young artists fresh from art institutes are hopping from one exhibition to the other and are only producing works when invited for a show and according to the theme set by the curator. They are losing the opportunity to develop a unique vision and their own body of work. Some artists cannot even produce biodata as they skip opportunities for residencies and biennales in favour of producing directly for collectors via galleries.

These practices are in marked contrast to those of the mid-career artists such as Heri Dono, Agus Suwage, Ugo Untoro who work in studios, research and experiment. They produce difficult-to-sell works such as installations, performances and posters in addition to their marketable pieces.

New art: fast food

Most of the young artists belong to art communities which are related to specific media:

  • Mes56 – photography
  • Daging Tumbuh – comics
  • Mulyakarya  – comics
  • Jogja Mural Forum – street art
  • Grafis Minggiran – print-making
  • Vivid Animix – animation, comics
  • Gas – print-making, design
  • Pisangseger – print-making
  • Simponi – fiber and textile

In Mella Jaarsma’s view the concerns and activities of young Indonesian artists mirror those of young artists throughout Asia:

“These young artists engage in safe play with little introspection and the works produced are often sweet, non-critical and ready to be consumed….It is an observation true all over Asia. Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, a curator and writer from Manila, calls this new generation image-crafters and object makers of fast food art.”

Jaarsma then ended the lecture with an encouraging series of images of works by young artists who are, despite all, developing their own unique oeuvre such as Jompet Kuswidananto whose work Java’s Machine Phantasmagoria has been shown at the Yokahama Trienniale 2008 and is now on show at Cemeti.

Agree or disagree? What do you think of Indonesian art? Why not leave a comment below.

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