To mark its opening, the museum presents an exhibition which grants public access to one of the most significant collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. 

Opened on November 3rd, Museum Macan becomes one of the art venue in Jakarta which adapts
modern and futuristic concept. Photo courtesy of Museum Macan.

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, or Museum Macan, was officially opened on November 3 by philanthropist, collector and founder Haryanto Adikoesoemo. For its inaugural exhibition, the museum presents “Art Turns. World Turns. Exploring the Collection of Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara”, a showcase of 90 artworks from nearly a total of 800 works of the founder’s collection which have been assembled over a 25-year period.

The artworks selection by more than 70 big names from the 19th century to the present day originates from across Asia, Europe and North America and introduces aspects of Indonesia’s momentous art history – from the colonial period through Independence, Reformasi and onto the present time. 

The exhibition which runs until 18 March 2018 is curated by Charles Esche and Agung Hujatnika. It follows a broad chronological order where Indonesian history is used as a guiding framework and explores international events that have influenced the country, as well as different social, economic and cultural exchanges that have taken place throughout the last two centuries that have impacted both the art scene and society. These artworks provide an idea of how such changes affect artists’ ways of expression and look at how they have sought to influence the way society perceives the world.

The exhibition is divided into four main sections: Land, Home, People; Independence and After, Struggles Around Form and Content and Global Soup. Within each section, the audience can discover both common interests and individual ideas by artists who have made a strong and lasting impact on the history of art. 

Land, Home, People as the theme of the first section refers to three core elements that contribute to an understanding of personal identity depicted by artists from Europe and Southeast Asia from the mid-nineteenth to the early 20th centuries. Here, the elements are depicted by artists in various ways and styles. During the colonial period, the rich landscapes of Indonesia, especially Bali, were often idealized by visiting Western artists fascinated by locals and the customary ceremonies in the tropics. In turn, the foreign artists influenced local talents who started to make similar works. 

Walter Spies. View across the Sawahs to Gunung Agung. Photo courtesy of Museum Macan

In this section, we can find the works of Raden Saleh’s Indies Landscape, Miguel Covarrubias’ Map of Bali with the Rose of the Winds, Walter Spies’ View Across the Sawahs to Gunung Agung and Lee Man Fong’s Balinese Weaver, where we can see the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised, reflecting on how artists shaped the idea of what a beautiful landscape or street scene should look like. 

In the second section, Independence and After, Museum Macan provides quite a lot of space for the works of artists in the era of Independence which were mostly created after World War II. Indonesian artists depicted nationalist themes to inspire a morale boost for the people. In contrast to earlier periods, artists wanted to show the people of Indonesia and their real living and working conditions. Realism, a movement determined to capture reality through painting, was therefore the dominant visual language. 

The key artist for the then-newly created Republic of Indonesia was S. Sudjojono, whose artwork Resting described the Indonesian army taking a rest in a humanist depiction of the revolution. Palace painter Dullah presented Bung Karno Amidst the Revolutionary War, which told the role of Soekarno as the great orator who could always raise the spirits of the soldiers. There is also special space to exhibit the three self-portraits of Lekra figures Hendra Gunawan, Trubus Soedarsono and S. Sudjojono. 

The third section, Struggles Around Form and Content, developed from two schools of art that were strongly present in both international art at the time and in Indonesian art discourse from 1950s onwards. The period is marked by a strict polarity between modern artistic languages and strategies in which the figurative and the abstract came to represent two ways of thinking about art and its relation to society and politics.

Sindudarsono Sudjojono, "Ngaso" (1964).
Photo courtesy of Museum Macan

Although there was no longer an ideological conflict issue after 1965, most artworks are still strengthened with populist themes, such as Bird Market by Soetopo, Watching Football by H. Widayat and Prostitutes Putting on Make Up by Djoko Pekik. 

This section also mixes the artworks of foreign artists like Luo Zhongli, who strongly illustrated the figures through his painting Birth Record, and John Chamberlain, who created a painted and chromium-plated steel artwork from wrecked aircraft into a sculpture named #1 Moxie. 

The fourth section, Global Soup, showcases works by a contemporary generation of artists who are, up to today, still active. Contemporary artists are much more aware of international visual languages, ideas and market trends. Their works are exhibited everywhere yet they often return to subjects and traditions close to their cultural backgrounds. In this exhibition, visitors will therefore discover a number of solo presentations in an open space where the works can come together as nodes in a network of relations. 

One of the attractive artworks in this section is the creation of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang entitled Ascending, a painting with the medium of gunpowder and ink sprinkled on paper and burned. 

There’s also work from Yukinori Yanagi, whose latest work has been especially commissioned for the Museum’s opening. ASEAN+3 is a series of 13 national flags that make up the 10 members of the ASEAN as well as three flags of Asian economic powerhouses: China, Japan and South Korea. Each flag has been created from coloured sands and are connected by transparent tubes. 

The 4,000-square meter museum designed by the award-winning MET Studio from London also provides the Children’s Art Space, a dedicated education area for children.

Described as bio-kinetic, the work includes a colony of five thousand live weaver ants endemic to tropical Asia and Australia, whose ability to withstand the installation has been tested and tried. As the ants move around and establish their colony, tunnels are created, and sand from one flag is transferred into another, creating a network of holes, constantly changing the composition of each flag. It is a continuous process of construction and deconstruction, which occurs within the controlled environment over a period of two months. After this period, the ants will be removed and the design created by their ecosystem finalized. 

The 4,000-square meter museum designed by the award-winning MET Studio from London also provides the Children’s Art Space, a dedicated education area for children. For its inaugural project, renowned Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso presents Floating Garden, touching on the environment, ecology and permaculture – all ongoing themes in his practice and of significance to Jakarta. The installation incorporates artworks, murals and education activities that explore ideas of a ‘floating garden’ – a concept of land and nature based on the artist’s unique artwork style and vision.

Sari Widiati

Sari Widiati

Sari has been an arts and culture enthusiast for many years. She has written extensively on the arts, travel, and social issues as Features Writer at NOW! Jakarta.