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Posts Tagged ‘Indonesian art collectors’

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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Posted in Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Artist-run, Business of art, Collaborative, Collectors, Events, Gallery shows, Indonesia, Indonesian, Interviews, Multi category, Myanmar/Burmese, Nindityo Adipurnomo, Performance, Promoting art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is Hong Kong a cultural desert? How can you become a better collector? Answers revealed at Asia Art Forum

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS HONG KONG ART INDONESIAN ART ART COLLECTING

Guest writer Bonnie E. Engel, a Hong Kong freelance journalist, presents Art Radar Asia readers with her perspective on the talks of two speakers at the this year’s Asia Art Forum, held in Hong Kong in May. Hong Kong art critic and curator Valerie Doran discusses the question, “Is Hong Kong a cultural desert?” and Indonesian private art collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien divulges his collecting secrets.

Engel attended the third edition of Asia Art Forum’s three day gathering of talks and artist studio visits, designed for emerging and established collectors and presented by influential curators, collectors and experts. This year’s forum focussed on Chinese art. Read more about why organiser Pippa Dennis set up the Forum here.

Valerie Doran: Hong Kong curator and art critic

Curator and art critic Valerie Doran spoke on Sunday morning at Hong Kong’s Ben Brown Fine Arts. She covered the history of fine art in Hong Kong, trying to answer the question, “Is Hong Kong a Cultural Desert?”

 

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

 

This perception is fed by the lack of facilities in the city in which to show Hong Kong contemporary art and relatively few full-time artists who are more or less invisible unless collectors hunt them out. These artists are nourished on the peripheries of the territory, out in the new territories like Kowloon and the industrial sections of Hong Kong Island, rather than in Central or Causeway Bay.

The audience was grateful to see works by the older generation of artists in Hong Kong, who seemed driven to create art without a market or venue, artists such as Luis Chan and Lui Shou-kwan, who were born at the beginning of the 20th century, and Wucius Wong, Gaylord Chang, Ha Bik Chuen and Chu Hing Wah, all born before World War II. Most of their works are small, possibly reflecting the lack of space in Hong Kong.

Doran explained that Hong Kong’s art industry developed outside the concept of the art market. A lot of the art made in Hong Kong is installation (temporary) or conceptual, mainly due to a lack of space and resources, and the need for a supportive community rather than one so focused on making money.

Post-war artists also failed to rise to any great heights, but after the 1989 incident artists rose to the occasion and responded by creating conceptual and performance art pieces, perhaps a pivotal moment in the development of Hong Kong art.

As Doran relayed, part of the problem is the lack of governmental policy regarding artists, or rather that the official policy seems to be to ignore the arts. Recently, with the newly created West Kowloon Cultural District, built on reclaimed land, artists and curators are beginning to worry that the government will begin to establish arts policy, much to the detriment of arts development in the territory. To date, the government has sponsored performing art shows and events more substantially than the visual arts, perhaps a legacy of the culture-starved colonials from the UK before 1997.

She highlighted one successful governmental project, the art space Para/Site, which receives some funding from the rather new Arts Development Council, an organisation not noted for promoting local arts or artists without a lot of red tape and many meetings. The city’s major museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, is closed to outside curators (unless you are Louis Vuitton or other big money sponsors), so it was unique that Doran was allowed to create the Antonio Mak show there. Although many people agree that Hong Kong needs a contemporary art museum, Doran sees more hope in the integration and cooperation of the Pearl River Delta cities, an action that could sweep Hong Kong up into the larger regional arts scene.

Doran concluded by noting that Hong Kong’s artists are beginning to participate in the Venice Biennale and other internationals shows, and collectors are gathering in the territory twice a year for major auctions of Chinese and Southeast Asian art. Artists such as Kacey Wong, Lee Kit, Stanley Wong (anothermountainman), Tozer Pak, Sarah Tse, Luke Ching Chin-waiAnthony Leung Po Shan, Chow Chun Fai, Lam Tung Pang and Warren Leung are starting to shine at local and international galleries.

Valerie Doran is a critic and curator who, after spending seven years in Taiwan, is now based in Hong Kong. She specialises in contemporary Asian art with a special interest in cross-cultural currents and comparative art theory. She is a contributing editor of Orientations Magazine. Her Hong Kong curatorial projects include Simon Birch’s multi-media extravaganza, “Hope and Glory” and the controversial exhibition “Looking for Antonio Mak” which showed at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 2008 and 2009.

Art Radar Asia has published a number of articles on Valerie Doran, including this exclusive interview.

Dr. Oei Hong Djien: Indonesian art specialist and collector

 

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

 

Dr. Oei Hong Djien, the final speaker on Sunday, was born and is based in Indonesia. He has been collecting art for nearly thirty years, focusing on modern and contemporary Indonesian art. The collection comprises about 1500 works, a fraction of which is on public display in his private museum, known as the OHD museum, where he is the curator. A book about his collection by Dr. Helena Spanjaard was published in 2004: Exploring Modern Indonesian Art: The collection of Dr Oei Hong Djien.

More open than most collectors, perhaps because he already has a large collection and has built a building to house it, Dr. Oei’s presentation was refreshing and candid. His “essence of collecting” vocabulary should become the bible of collectors: money, knowledge, passion, patience, courage, relation, quality, timing, luck and experience. He expanded upon these words, giving sage advice, and combined this with a showing of some of the best examples of modern Indonesian art.

His insistence on courage was very telling, as he advised new collectors with limited funds to go after young artists, buy unpopular works that go against the mainstream, look up forgotten old masters and get masterpieces that include unsuitable subject matter. This advice is predicated on hard work, self-education and endless observing, reobserving and observing again, to learn what quality art is and how to buy it. Most importantly, he said not to be afraid to make mistakes because that is how a serious collector becomes better.

Bonnie E. Engel has been a freelance journalist in Hong Kong for about 25 years. She is an Asian art specialist, covering all forms of visual arts. She travels around the region to visit artists, galleries, auctions and art fairs, and meets international artists when they come to Hong Kong. She has written for Hong Kong Prestige, Hong Kong Tatler, Gafenku, Muse Magazine, Asian Art Newspaper and other publications.

Editorial disclaimer – The opinions and views expressed by guest writers  do not necessarily reflect those of Art Radar Asia, staff, sponsors and partners.

Related Topics: art collectors, events – conferences, art curators, Hong Kong artists, Indonesian artists, venues – Hong Kong

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Posted in Art districts, Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Bonnie E. Engel, Business of art, Collectors, Conference, Curators, Dr. Oei Hong Djien, Events, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Indonesian, Professionals, Promoting art, Valerie Doran, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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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Posted in Activist, Agus Suwage, Art spaces, Cartoon, Curators, Gallerists/dealers, I Nyoman Masriadi, Indonesia, Indonesian, Islamic art, Market watch, Overviews, Political, Pop Art, Professionals, Putu Sutawijaya, Surveys | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Indonesian, Filipino prices rise at Sotheby’s despite meltdown

Posted by artradar on October 13, 2008


I Nyoman Masriadi The Final Round

I Nyoman Masriadi The Final Round

 

AUCTION SOUTH EAST ASIAN ART 2008

Sotheby’s autumn sales in Hong Kong were grim apart from the South East Asian sale which provided some much needed relief. The success of the sale prompted an ebullient quip from Sotheby’s entertaining auctioneer Chin Yeow : “Is there a financial meltdown out there because I am not feeling it. The banks should ask our bidders if they need money!”

The sale included Malaysian, Filipino, Singaporean and Vietnamese art but was dominated by Indonesian works. Bidding was thin for Vietnamese lots and these attracted interest mainly from Paris. In contrast the Filipino and in particular the Indonesian lots attracted fierce bidding wars from bidders on all continents.

The works which attracted most interest included those by I Nyoman Masriadi, Agus Suwage, Rudy Mantofani and FX Harsano.

Two Indonesian markets: modern/colonial and contemporary/popular

Information about Indonesian art is notoriously difficult to come by. Helen Spanjaard, a Dutch art academic specialising in Indonesian art (one of only two in the world who speak English she says), explains that there are two distinct markets for Indonesian works – the colonial/Dutch influenced body of works eg Affandi and the new generation mostly born in the seventies.

“There is established buying support for the colonial works mostly from Chinese Indonesian collectors who compete with one another to drive up prices”. There is a second much more international market for the seventies generation artists. Dr Spanjaard notes that those works which are particularly popular are reminiscent of Chinese pop art or refer to popular cultural influences such as cartoons, superheros, flat stylisation, fantasy.

This was certainly borne out in the sale. Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi’s The Man From Bantul (The Final Round), 2000, lot 838, an impressive triptych of a fight painted in a flat stylised manner sold for HK$7,820,000 (US$1,000,725) after lively bidding, five times its high estimate of HK$1-1.5 million.

A number of other works by Masriadi fetched impressive prices  including Petualanganku Berakhir Setelah Ketemu Ibumu (My Adventure Ended After I Met Your Mother), which sold for HK$2,900,000 (US$371,113) (lot 895, est. HK$250/350,000), and Too Small, which achieved HK$1,820,000 (US$232,905) (lot 808, est. HK$250/350,000), both bringing many times their high estimates. These works featured flat images with cartoon-style poses and speech bubbles.

Sotheby’s again set a record for the work of Rudi Mantofani (b. 1973) following the record price achieved
in its series of spring 2008 sales last season. Pohon-Pohon Langit (Sky Trees) sold for HK$3,020,000
(US$386,469), bringing almost eight times its high estimate (lot 868, est. HK$280,000 – $380,000). Mantofani is known for his surreal fantasy landscapes in which for example trees are clouds and shadows are holes.

Artist records were also broken for Dipo Andy and Jumaldi Alfi. More abstract contemporary works and by for example Yunizar, Putu Satawijaya and the moderns also attracted interest but to a lesser extent.

Filipino artists

Filipino artists who did well in this sale included Geraldine Javier, Ronald Ventura, Annie Cabigting, Yasmin Sison and Lirio Salvador.

Why is South East Asian art so popular now?

Some commentators note that there is a structural issue which is affecting the art market. Today’s buyers are more speculative than at any time in the history of art buying and that the interest in South East Asian works is coming from former buyers of Chinese art who are looking for the next hot trend. Others note that the sale was a success because prices of South East Asian art are relatively cheap compared with other markets.

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Posted in Auctions, Cartoon, Collectors, Critic, Filipino, Hong Kong, Individual, Indonesian, Malaysian, Market watch, Pop Art, Professionals, Recession, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »