Changes in Art and the World at The Inaugural Museum MACAN

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The art exhibition is titled “ART TURNS. WORLD TURNS” at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN), Jakarta. (Photo: Jacky Rachmansyah)

“Art Turns, World Turns” as an exhibition that started and marked the inauguration of the Museum of Modern And Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN) which took place at AKR Tower, Kebon Jeruk, Jakarta. In this 4000 square meter museum, the inaugural exhibition in Indonesian called “Art Changes, The World Changes” was held, from November 4, 2017 to March 18, 2018.

Museum MACAN’s collection is very compound; according to historical works from the late 19th century to the present; from fine art according to Indonesia to abroad, both Asia, America, and Europe. This is certainly a grand challenge, considering the number of collections that must be curated is not a joke, which is approximately 800 works.

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This collection is not dated based on the crucial figure behind museum MACAN, Haryanto Adikoesoemo, who spent 25 years collecting various works according to domestic and foreign. Of the hundreds of works, Agung Hujatnika (Agung Hujatnikajennong) and Charles Esche who were appointed as curators of the exhibition, determined 92 works representing the macan museum collection. Liu Ye, “PINK”, 90×90 centimeters, Acrylic on canvas, 2003. (Photo: Jacky Rachmansyah)

The title “Art Turns, World Turns”, briefly wants to open up insights into the global interweaving & fine arts. Both, both the world and art, are constantly undergoing changes. In their curatorial notes, Jennong and Esche write:

“We understand that the world must change, but understanding change with a new consciousness is another matter.” Art Turns, World Turns’ not only intends to look back at the changes that have occurred in artistic practice and the social world, but also emphasizes new initiatives to engage in these changes.”

To study the changes in art & the world, the two curators produced the history of Indonesian art as its main framework. The works of Indonesian artists are placed in four parts formed from Indonesia’s history since pre-independence until the present.

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The four parts are named Earth, Hometown, Man; Independence & Afterwards; Struggles Around Form & Content; and Global Concoction. Throughout the four parts, Indonesia’s art history is faced with using works based on foreign countries, to form chats that show similarities, disparities, and dependencies, based on when to when.

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In addition to being guided by the four sections that direct visitors to the great narrative offered, this exhibition is also equipped with archives that are evidence of traveling the history of Indonesian art. The two curators assisted Yacobus Ari Respati to collect a lot of files, such as articles, catalogs, and letters. Yayoi Kusama, “Infinity Mirrored Room – Brilliance of the Souls”, 2014. (Photo: Jacky Rachmansyah)

Several archives were displayed before entering the four-part exhibition, which describes the development of art in the early 20th century, starting based on the period when there were no art institutions, ethical political impacts, the emergence of Batavia Kunstkring, to the transfer of the colonial era from the Netherlands to Japan. While other archives that reveal the development of Indonesian art until the art period at this time, spread at several appropriate points using the exhibition subthema.

Earth, Hometown, Man as the first part to welcome visitors. This section, highlights three elements: the earth, page village, and the sense of belonging that the artists often respond to in the pre-independence period. At this time, the evidence of national self has not appeared and the object of the appearance of nature is the most rare thing raised to the work.

In this section there is still the work of maestro Raden Saleh who is also sporadically seen by the public, namely Javanese Mail Station (Java Post Office), featuring a view of the green forest that is divided by Jalan Raya Pos. Among the trees that dominate the painting, there are several people riding horses and carrying freight carts on the road. This painting tells the story of the Postal Highway which was made connecting the eastern and western ends of Java island in the early 19th century and can accommodate dozens of horses using a speed of 20 km per hour.

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On the other hand, the aesthetic representation of nature and exotica nusantara, especially Bali, seems to form many tourists and foreign artists who arrive for a vacation. Bali is visualized as an island that displays cultural exoticism and women who are often depicted shirtless. As appeared in Map of Vali with the Rose of the Winds from Miguel Covarrubias or on Balinese Weaver from Lee Man Fong.

Entering the Independence section and afterwards, visitors will first be faced with using works that nuance independence and nationalism. As seen in S. Sudjojono’s painting titled Ngaso, which highlights the community warriors who played a role in fighting for independence. There are also no less crucial, such as Dullah’s painting entitled Karno in the Middle of the Revolution, highlighting Sukarno who was campaigning to spark the spirit of the soldiers. Raden Saleh, Araber zu Pferd von einem Lowen angegriffen, uk 30×40 cm, oil on canvas, 1849. (Photo: Jacky Rachmansyah)

While the end of the Independence period, artists tend to start experimenting with displaying how to actualize themselves. Hendra Gunawan & Affandi, for example, are increasingly abandoning realism. In this section there is also a corner that displays a self-portrait painting. One of them is a self-portrait of Trubus Sudarsono, a talented young painter who was kidnapped and disappeared during the New Order because he was considered an activist of the left movement.

Through the independence period, Indonesian art began to experience debates around figurative and shapeless painting forms. This phase also brings us to the third part of the exhibition, namely the Struggle around Form and Content. The debate that occurred in the fine arts scene about form, not only for the sake of beauty, but also followed by political content between the LEKRA group & Cultural Manifest.

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The left-leaning LEKRA upholds socialist realism that emphasizes popular values, as a result of which it must be reflected in works of art. Art is for the community, so it must be easy to understand and side with the people in those days. While the Cultural Manifest is oriented in universal humanism and emphasizes that art should not be on the side, it does not contain political weight behind it. Art is felt to be more developed when artists are given the freedom and freedom to initiate any theme.

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The opposite occurred in 1966, when problems around the form also occurred between art academics in Bandung and Yogyakarta which were more based on beauty than politics. Bandung artists who are mostly ITB students more often display non-representational paintings, while Yogyakarta artists who come from ASRI prefer figurative styles.

Finally, the exhibition closed using the Global Concoction section which better mixes Indonesian and international artists regardless of national boundaries. Each artist present becomes an individual who presents a certain style & idea and we are able to find several single presentations from several artists who have “successfully” penetrated the market at a high price for example Nyoman Masriadi & F.X. Harsono. Not to forget the works of Damien Hirst or Takashi Murakami.

The Article on Art & World Change at The Premiere of Museum MACAN was published in the December 2017 issue of SARASVATI magazine

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