The Fashionable Artsy LIFE Simon Tan
This contemporary-style house located in Kelapa Gading will be hard to ignore when you happen to pass it by. One of the main reasons is its outstanding design. Soon you will figure out that the people living in this house have a distinct taste and are not afraid nor hesitate to show it.
A stair behind the entrance gate is the main access to this four storey house. And when Bazaar arrived at the last staircase, we are greeted by an abstract painting on the sizeable canvas in the foyer. “The title is Buruk (Foul), it doesn’t seem truly foul, however, does it?” Simon Tan, a fine art collector, greets the us as he walks out from the main entrance. Apart from this amazement, everyone visiting his house will be speechless to see another unique part. The main doors made of solid wood complete with artistic carving, making it easily belong to the artwork category. But it is behind these doors, when Bazaar’s journey exploring Simon Tan’s collections begins.
While accompanying us exploring his collections, Tan starts telling us about his interest in fine art which has lasted since 22 years ago. If some collectors started enjoying or becoming familiar with fine art since the early age, it did not come so to Tan. “The first time I knew about fine art was because of my cousin, Biantoro, the owner of Nadi Gallery. At that time, I used to stay at his house whenever I went to Jakarta (I previously lived in Semarang) and saw many arts here. Finally I started to be
His interests in fine art, especially works of the artist
of Yogyakarta, Handiwirman, are also exhibited at his
house. By Stella Mailoa.
very fond of them,” he explains. He also adds that he was interested in contemporary arts since the beginning. He loves visually nonconventional works. “I truly love works with alluring and decorative color composition. Let’s say that I love any outstanding works.” He then adds, “But, I think the outstanding point is about personal subjectivity.” In line with this, he also mentions some names of artist he admires a lot; two of them are Heri Dono and Nasirun.
Since he was attracted by the beauty of fine art, he started to broaden his knowledge. “I see a lot, read a lot and discuss about art with experts,” he clearly adds. These efforts also include visiting museums and art gallery and buying some art books, which of course, is all about broadening his knowledge and skill. “The more I learn the more taste I hone at arts,” he admits.
Different from any visitation to a house should be, Tan took us to the upstairs room. We finally got the reason why when we reached a room closely bordering to the rooftop deck. This room functions as a personal gallery which displays forty-four works of painting and object; the number is based on to the quick count of Bazaar. All works staged there are Handiwirman Saputra’s.
Tan has admired Handiwirman since 1999 when one of his friends came into his house to introduce Handiwirman and Yunizar’s works. “I often buy some works when I truly recognize the artist and everything about him. But it turned out differently when I looked at Handi’s (Handiwirman’s nickname). Once I saw the painting, I was assured that the one created this painting is a great man,” Simon says. The painting entitled An Independence Eve is displayed in his personal gallery. Tan was finally able to meet Handiwirman in Yogyakarta three days after he purchased Handi’s painting for the first time. For him, it was a must to meet the great artist himself. After meeting Handi, Tan got another two paintings from him, both are displayed at his other house in Semarang. These purchases has quickly turned into a vast collection. When asked about the amount of Handiwirman’s artworks he has, “I don’t really know how many of them precisely, as I never counted them,” he responds.
What exactly is the appeal of Handiwirman’s artworks that has been captivating Tan’s attention? “I am very much fond of an artistic work. Visual aesthetic is the most prominent thing for me and it is about personal taste. In my opinion, Handi’s work has inevitably fulfilled my taste. His work is so artistic, especially his abstract-style works. The composition of the lines seem very efficient, the use of colors is also specific. His aesthetic sense makes him special.” Besides commenting on the artistic point, Tan is also in awe of Handiwirman’s personality. “I think my mistake is I never really asked much about the background of his artwork creation. I feel this ecstasy when I am standing in front of his works.therefore, I don’t really care about the reason behind it, because I already love the works, instead,” he claims.
As stated by Simon Tan, Handiwirman always
expresses the problems he went through his daily life. experience, anxiety, something that draws his attention among others, are expressed exactly like he wants in his own way and his own taste. “Most of the times, the titles of his works also sound like nonsense, however it does not mean that the words are meaningless. The words create new meanings for him,” Tan explains. The titles of Handiwirman’s works meant by Tan are such as Ujung Sangkut Sisi Sentuh, Tak Berakar Tak Berujung, Tutur Karena Air Mata and so on. “In short, I like Handi because his works are imaginative, artistic, personal, sensitive and the ideas he conveys are beyond reach. He becomes extraordinary because he is beyond the reach. He is solid; someone has to think in order to understand his works,” he explains.
Once Handiwirman visited Tan’s house located in Semarang, and he started weeping when he saw his own works. Tan thought that the artist was touched when he was looking at his collections. Yet, when he asked him, “Handi answered, ‘I am remembering the times when I made those works. I won’t be able to go back and do it again.’”
According to Tan, he was excessively lucky that he got to know Handi at the perfect time when the Indonesian art Industry had not really understand his works yet. Now that Handiwirman has started moving on from abstract, his paintings look more realistic. “Handi is now easily accepted in markets because he’s living a steady life. And when an artist has a steady living, it means that other people who also live in steady life (collectors) will also recognize him. He was one of the marginal people, not only in market but also in achieving his life goals,” says Tan.
Not only in galleries, but Handi’s artworks are also spread in almost every corner of the house, embellishing almost all part of the walls. For Tan, there is no particular strategy in arranging artworks in his house. He simply tries to put them in such an order so that the walls do not look overcrowded, leaving some spaces to “breathe”. On the second floor which is the area of main bedroom and kids’ bedroom, there are five paintings that are nicely
displayed. A couple of paintings on blue and pink round canvas are put strategically. each of them is placed in front of the bedrooms of his son and daughter respectively. Stepping down the main stair inside the house heading to the ground floor, Mella Jaarsma’s photography work greets us. It might be the only work hanging on the wall that is not Handiwirman’s creation. This photography artwork is divided into three separated frames, giving a different vibe from the travertine wall background.
Whenasked about his favorite artwork, without a doubt Tan answers while pointing at the painting inside the foyer on the turning area from the main door heading to the living room. “His work at that moment had quite a lot of colors and lines painted on the canvas. But this one is different. It does not have a lot of lines and shapes. The object looks like a simple drawing of a tongue; but like a tongue, it is actually an incredibly complex object. The composition of its lines is also extreme: incorporating the curved ones and the firmly straight ones. Very artistic,” he explains while looking at the painting with an admiring stare. And of course, the painting entitled Buruk which won the phillip Morris Art Award in 1998. It has actually been a long time since Tan bought Handiwirman’s artwork, although he says: “More or less, 80% of Handi’s works might be mine.” Handiwirman’s artwork which now is leaning into realism does not catch his eyes as much as the abstract one.
Among Handiwirman’s artworks, a number of Anusapati and S. Teddy sculptures are also displayed in strategically in his house. He also shows several Bob Sick’s paintings that he have not been displayed yet. “I was given a lot of paintings by Bob Sick because he said ‘it is only you who can appreciate my works,’” he adds.
At the end of our visit, Tan leaves us some tips in starting a collection of fine art ourselves. “Start with affection and love. Be yourself. Find out what type of art you like and where your taste usually leads you, then find the important and responsible artists with a good record according to your taste, and those are the artists whose works you want to buy,” he explains. He then continues by giving himself as an example. “For instance, I like surrealist paintings, thus I look for the great and important surrealists who are acknowledged by independent art institutions,” he states. However, what if the art we like is too expensive to buy? “We definitely have to know our limits and capability. And, the artist who works on a particular style or the one we like can’t be merely the only one,” he answers.
“So, be yourself, learn a lot, see a lot. And the most important thing is to buy an artwork. Because you train yourself and you learn by buying artworks. If you experience the risks, the excitement, and everything in it, then you will become smarter. You can’t just be someone who’s watching from the sideline all the time to start collecting,” he says, ending our conversation on that lovely evening.
A private art gallery occupies the third floor of Simon’s house; Some parts of an artwork of Handiwirman; Simon Tan and his wife, Henny Mulia.
Anusapati’s sculpture is placed strategically
paintings hanging on the
Buruk by Handiwirman, is one of Tan’s favorite artworks in his house. Hence its position at the house’s foyer.