MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART
Finds a new Home in museum macan
The people behind the coming-soon museum macan want to further ingrain art in our everyday urban life. one thing is for sure: the museum will certainly add an invaluable educational site (however few they are) that provides a peek into our nation’s identity as seen through the eyes of art.
By sahiri Loing
The genial and enthusiastic Dr. Thomas J. Berghuis tells a story about one breezy morning in New York with Mr. Haryanto Adikoesoemo: “We met at this local breakfast place for bagels, and we asked each other ‘so what’s the plan for today?’ I might go to the Guggenheim, he went to the Metropolitan, there was an exhibition in a gallery at Chelsea that he wanted to go to, and then Broadway came up. At the end of the day we met again to share what we saw, each advising the other about what exhibitions to see because it might tie into the other’s interests.”
He envisions a similar scene happening in Jakarta in five to 10 years’ time. But with Museum MACAN, founded by philanthropist and art collector Mr. Haryanto Adikoesoemo, currently in development and to open early 2017, that vision might come true sooner than expected. Museum MACAN (acronym for Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara) is the first of its kind in Indonesia and will provide the public with access to its growing permanent collection of close to 800 artworks, which have been collected by Mr. Haryanto Adikoesoemo over the past 25 years. The collection includes works from Indonesian artists such as Raden Saleh and Affandi, as well as international treasures by artists such as Jean-michel Basquiat. Dr. Berghuis, previously the curator for Chinese Art at the prestigious Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is appointed as the Director and Chief Curator of Museum MACAN, and along with his professional curatorial team, will be responsible for implementing a variety of educational and community programs, collection management, curating frequent temporary exhibitions, and outreach projects as well. For the future they have mapped out exciting plans that include collaborating with established and up-and-coming artists, commissioning new artworks, co-developing exhibitions, and, most importantly, engaging the public.
“We want to enhance the deepening and appreciation of contemporary art, and of course we aim to tie it to the international community as well,” says Berghuis, who hails from the Netherlands. “But what we display is not just going to be what’s contemporary now, but will also relate to art in the 21st century in general.”
The appreciation of modern and contemporary art in Indonesia has always existed—indicated by the 30,000 attendees of last year’s Jakarta Biennale—but it’s still considered a niche market, catered by art galleries and private museums across big cities like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, and art auctions are actually gaining prominence too.
“The Indonesian art scene has always been vibrant,” Berghuis says. “You can see it in the existence of sanggar [or studio] in the '40s and '60s, the artists’ movements in the '60s and '70s, especially with the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (or The New Fine Art Movement) in which they explored new art forms like installations and performing arts, and the socially-relevant artwork of ‘98 and onwards. There’s creativity happening everywhere in Indonesia, and I don’t think we should contain it.”
Catering to such creativity is definitely a priority for Mr. Haryanto and Dr. Berghuis, but most importantly, for the bigger picture the museum yearns to be part of the environment and to become sort of a medium for reflection of what is happening around us, particularly the culture in which it grows roots. “We want to be part of Jakarta, part of Indonesia, and ultimately part of the world. That’s why we don’t isolate the museum, we’re not building a standalone one because we aim to contribute and stimulate the broader ecology, and to connect it to other creativity.”
AN INTIMATE DESIGN
Museum MACAN is located in Kebon
Jeruk, West Jakarta, and occupies around 4,000m2 on the fifth floor of a multipurpose landmark building that will also be used for business, residential, hotel, restaurants, cafes, and showroom (as part of what they name as The Gallery West complex)—all highly visible from the highway as you drive to and from the airport. The design of the museum is handled by Londonbased firm, MET Studio Design, whose past collaboration includes with The
Natural History Museum in London and the gorgeous Wetland park in Hong Kong. According to research done in the U.S., visiting museums or galleries is viewed as a social experience where a person will gather with family and friends, perhaps in a nearby café, to talk about their take on a particular artwork, and the site of Museum MACAN certainly provides such ample opportunities.
“For Haryanto and I, art plays a role in expanding our minds, to make us become more tolerant and just receptive to change, and a museum certainly gives us that opportunity to reflect,” says Berghuis. “on the contrary, we don’t want to make it too exclusive, too silent. A museum is a social space that encourages a social experience, and people love to talk to somebody about what they’ve just seen.”
“For more than a decade I have dreamed of creating a museum for the people of Indonesia, and for our visitors and friends from overseas,” Mr. Haryanto reveals in the press release. “I am confident that together with MET Studio we are developing the ideal space for people of all ages to enjoy, engage with, and learn about the true value of modern and contemporary art for our lives and our society.”
Speaking of engagement, Berghuis recalled two experiences he had at the Guggenheim, with the first one involving sitting with his daughter in the Museum’s rotunda looking at a James Turrell artwork. “It was during the day and there was this long line-up of people around the block just to experience the sights and the installation of the artist. The second one took place during a quiet morning where there was a handful of tourists, and among them were a group of young students—around 8 or 9 people—discussing with their art teacher and a museum staff member about this painting by Subodh Gupta, about how they felt regarding it and how they thought it was made.” Again, Berghuis hopes that he will see something like this happening inside Museum MACAN, especially since the surrounding neighbourhood is teeming with secondary schools.
The interior of Museum MACAN is designed to be completely experiential, a free-flowing journey that starts from the entrance where it will be marked by a gateway arch that wraps across the space and leads to a gallery with interactive education with collaborative digital “art totems”. Afterwards, you will enter an open-plan exhibition area with high ceilings that will focus on contemporary art and special projects, then continue to a more immersive space for historical artwork displays like paintings and sculptures as well as seminal 20th century modern art. ”It’s going to be a holistic open view,” Dr. Berghuis adds. “From a curatorial perspective, it will be driven by visual experience and different layers of experience.”
These last two spaces, in a way, were inspired by a particular area at the Guggenheim. “I worked in this one tower behind the rotunda where it had a very high ceiling—around six meters high—and the architecture was kind of warehouse style, expansive, and usually we held events and commissioned exhibitions in this open space. But then on the next tower the space is narrower and much more intimate with a low ceiling, and this area is perfect to show artworks like small paintings where you can just focus on the details of the paintings.”
BUILDING BODY of WORK
Indonesia is home to many exceptional artists, some already revered in the global
art scenes and many promising others are in line waiting for their time to shine. Names like Lee Man Fong to Hendra Gunawan to Agus Suwage to Heri Dono have successfully kick-started and perpetuated the interest in local contemporary art, laying the groundwork for future artists such as Titarubi, Masriadi, Christine Ay Tjoe, and eko Nugroho (who held a solo show in Musee d’art Moderne in paris back in 2002).
perhaps reflecting on the ever progressing nature of Indonesian contemporary art, Berghuis says he doesn’t have a favorite artist. “I just don’t want to single out because I think even the artisans who built the Borobudur temple are as valuable as the contemporary artists of today.” For sure he is determined to constantly spotlight local artists, “And have them cross-pollinate with artists from other countries. But, I guess most importantly is to have that accessibility so the public can see their art. I often reflect on this: an art space without visitors—is it really art? [That’s why] Accessibility is all.”
Berghuis himself comes from a family of artists—his mother worked in the printing business and his father was an interior designer who had a passion and gift for painting—thus fortunately introduced to the art world from a very young age. “As a kid they always brought me on trips to museums, galleries, artists’ studios, and even some artists’ friend of my parents often visited our home in Amsterdam.” He studied sinology in Leiden University and earned his ph.d in Asian Art History at University of Sydney (where later on he became a lecturer for the same subject), and around this time he started getting introduced to what was happening in the art scenes in Asia, namely Indonesia.
“most important thing is to have that accessibility so the public can see their art. i often
reflect on this: an art space without visitors - is it really art? (that's why) accessibility is all.”
He observes that Indonesia needs more support structures, particularly if we want the art world to further bloom. “For us a museum serves as a space for activation, for discussion and for project space to help create and support young artists. And we also have a role to help build catalog resume to show their body of work because we provide that space to reflect on a particular period, like what Galeri Nasional did with their Raden Saleh exhibitions or Museum Nasional Yogyakarta with Agus Suwage, complete with the launch of a biographical book that took three years just talking to the artist” Along the pipeline Berghuis aims to link the world of art to other creative industries such as fashion where naturally art is part of the designs, and even to the artful world of crafts where the young and hip Ikea-loving crowd often roam these days.
But, in the end, there’s nothing more significant than the artwork, and the artists who create it. “Adikoesoemo and I have no hidden agenda—we’re doing this because we have a shared passion for art, and we want to extend that passion to others so they can experience it themselves.”
Haryanto Adikoesoemo & Thomas J. Beghuis
Dullah, Bung Karno, 1965
Ay Tjoe Christine, My Monologue, 2008