Woman of the World

In a world dom­i­nated by men, for­mer art dealer Jais Darga proves that she can ex­cel in her own way. Anas­ta­sia Wi­bowo writes

Indonesia Tatler - - Faces -

The name jais darga is fa­mil­iar to many art afi­ciona­dos and col­lec­tors in In­done­sia and even over­seas. The for­mer art dealer is known to be the pi­o­neer in the world of art deal­er­ship— she was the first In­done­sian woman to make it big on the in­ter­na­tional stage, par­tic­u­larly in Paris and New York, where she used to live.

Last April, Jais proudly launched her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, en­ti­tled Jais Darga Na­maku. The 517-page tome, au­thored by Ahda Im­ran, re­counts the jour­ney of Jais’s dy­namic life as an in­ter­na­tional art dealer for more than 30 years. She ad­mits that she be­came an art dealer by ac­ci­dent. “When I was young, I wasn’t into art. I could not draw or paint un­til high school,” Jais says.

A rebel at heart, Jais cred­its her cir­cle of friends for her in­ter­est in art. Dur­ing her ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, Jais be­friended a group of free-spir­ited artists to whom she re­lated. “I think that school was not for me. I never stud­ied art for­mally, and I pre­ferred to learn and dis­cuss di­rectly from the pros,” Jais ad­mits.

In the be­gin­ning, Jais used to buy paint­ings from her friends. One day, a Parisian friend ad­mired a paint­ing in her house and of­fered to buy it, and so it be­gan—later, she de­cided to be­come a pro­fes­sional art dealer in the early 1980s. She es­tab­lished Darga Gallery in Sa­nur in Bali. Af­ter Jakarta and Bali, she then widened her mar­ket scope to Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia in the early 1990s.

“At that time and even un­til now it has been dif­fi­cult to sur­vive as a fe­male art dealer in this male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try. Peo­ple also tend to look down upon Asian peo­ple,” Jais says, re­veal­ing the chal­lenges she faces. But she did not in­tend to give up, and even cast her eyes to­wards the world’s cen­tre of art—paris.

Jais re­calls that in 1995, at Ta­jan Auc­tion at Ge­orge V Ho­tel in Paris, she bid too high for a paint­ing by Tsug­uharu Fou­jita. She bid at 800,000 francs—at the top of the mar­ket price. The next day, fel­low art deal­ers were wait­ing for her at the ho­tel lobby, com­plete with their cars and drivers.

At the top of her game, Jais tire­lessly worked non-stop for al­most 24 hours daily, meet­ing clients and go­ing to auctions and ex­hi­bi­tions to hunt for the per­fect mas­ter­pieces. When she had to con­tact her clients in New York and Paris, she had to stay up all night due to the time dif­fer­ence.

“I am a very fo­cused per­son: I stick to my plans and sched­ules,” Jais says, “My daugh­ter, Ma­gali, and my ex-hus­band used to com­plain about it, be­cause they wanted to spend qual­ity time with me.”

Her favourite paint­ing? “I can­not say. But, if you ask me which are worth col­lect­ing, I would say [Henri] Matisse and [Joan] Miró.”

The mum-of-one, who once co-owned Lans­berg Ga­lerie in Paris with her ex-hus­band Pas­cal Lans­berg, now en­joys her re­tire­ment in Bali. “I am done with se­ri­ous work and es­tab­lish­ing a new gallery. Right now, I just want to go wher­ever my feet take me.” She fur­ther adds, “I would gladly sup­port any emerg­ing artists, es­pe­cially the fe­male ones.”

At the end of our talk, Jais gives us a few tips for as­pir­ing art deal­ers out there. “The most im­por­tant thing is trust. Clients have to trust us. We also have to be smart, con­fi­dent, and have broad in­sights,” Jais ex­plains. “I hon­estly feel God truly blesses my life.”

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