To many people, the idea of having artworks usually comes after architecture and interior design, with art being seen as an accentuating variable. It is quite rare, at least in Indonesia, where art is treated the other way. This was the notion that inspired Deborah Iskandar, one of Indonesia’s finest art experts, to create a platform that caters to the need of art and design as a whole. After five long years of preparation, in July 2017 the digital platform known as was launched.

Co-funded with Erlangga Boenawan and Katiana Selopranoto, Indonesian Luxury is the only online resource that offers everything you need to acquire, build and style a luxury home in Indonesia. It is also the first digital platform that has a curated list of the best Indonesian galleries, interior designers, architects, luxury furnishing and real estates in one website. In a nutshell, Indonesian Luxury is the complete 360-degree solution for your art and design need.

To showcase Indonesian Luxury’s role in combining art and design, Deborah and her partners launched a pop-up restaurant called ‘Taste’ during the last Art Jakarta. It was simply the perfect example of how art and design come together in harmony, conceptualised by renowned young Indonesian contemporary artist Sinta Tantra together with design firm Domisilium Studio (run by Santi Alaysius and Hamphrey Tedja), Escalier Interior Indonesia, LAFLO furniture, Aman Tirta laser cut specialist, and Capital Lighting.

NOW! Jakarta chatted with Deborah Iskandar and Erlangga Boenawan about their inspiration, goals and more.

What is the inspiration behind this website?
Deborah Iskandar (DI): It is a culmination of my 20 years’ experience in the Indonesian art world. Many clients were asking for recommendations on architects, interior designers, galleries and where to source luxury furnishings. There was not a complete website that encompasses all these aspects. Also, when I was building my own house I bought everything online in the US. I felt comfortable doing so, as I knew the products and brands of what I was collecting, which were vintage American modernist furniture. If you were comfortable with a brand, you would feel more comfortable buying online. Our website is B-C, meaning our members are all established brands and are curated based on portfolio, reputation and experience. Lastly, everything must be available in Indonesia. Also, from a personal standpoint, I enjoy meeting people and promoting the best of art and design. By joining all these elements together we can have a powerful marketing tool to promote all the members. 

How long did it take you to prepare the website?
 It has been almost five years, from the start until now. The idea germinated before I left Sotheby’s and I had the chance to start my own business. I’ve been growing it together with ISA Art Advisory, as there are a lot of crossovers. The biggest challenge in this endeavour is finding technical expertise in Indonesia. Everyone wants to get into the tech sector, but there aren’t enough experienced programmers. A website is always a work in progress so we are already looking at the next phase. 

What makes it unique?
The concept is very simple. It’s a 360-degree solution to art and design. You can acquire, style and build a luxury home by using our website. You’ll find information and artist bios to learn about modern and contemporary art. Our targeted users are very busy people. Our website allows them to save items or inspirations to their mood board, visit our concierge service to have a personal introduction to top architects and interior designers, and also to learn more about art. 

Do you think the market is ready to move from conventional mindset to digital?
Yes, thanks to the rise of social media applications such as Instagram etc. More importantly,I think the key is the brand. If there is a strong brand name, quality and identity offered by established galleries and vendors, the clients will feel more comfortable buying online. 

What is your vision for this website?
DI: My vision is to change the mindset that when designing a house, office or apartment, art should be considered as part of the design process at the beginning of a project and not as an afterthought at the end. Art is what defines your taste, and can give your house or office a unique identity. You can’t have one without the other. By buying online, we hope to increase the collector base, which will have a ripple effect on the market and support artists, artisans and the creative industry as a whole.

Do you think your website can change the existing mindset on placing art as a decorative object?
DI: I hope it will change. You have two rules: the couch and the car. You should spend the same amount of money on art that goes over the couch as you do on a couch. If you can spend a million dollars on a car, then you can spend the same amount on a painting. The car for sure will not go up in value, but the painting at least has the “opportunity” to increase in value. It’s that simple… (smile)

What is your strategy to attract the older generation to your website?
Erlangga Boenawan (EB):
Transparent information, convenience and better pricing. People have to be able to acquire transparent knowledge of every painting in the market and we need to work hard to get to that point. In this digital era, every market turns to be an open one and open systems cut a lot of conservative businesses as people expect the same price listed overseas. They don’t count in transportation costs, customs and handling costs. Now the challenge is to meet their expectation through the digital platform as we can cut a lot of operational costs and lower the price.

What is the characteristic of Indonesian collector like?
It is still a growing market where most new collectors like pretty pictures. It’s what we call the school fees. They buy on impulse at the beginning but as they become more enamored of the art market, they take the time to learn, talk to people and solicit more information about the market. That is a natural progression in any market, but here there is a longer learning curve because we don’t have international-standard museums. 

What about the millennials?
EB: We love art, and most importantly, we see it as a need. Because a lot of people are educated overseas, the mindset is different and we don’t like anything pretentious. Even though only a very small number of them can afford to acquire a piece, they are aware from the beginning of what makes good art and that it is ‘normal’ to invest in art.

What’s the current trend in Indonesian contemporary art market?
DI: The trend is very interesting. Because of Instagram, images, photos, and art are becoming more mainstream. Art is also becoming very “trendy” because of the rise of the art fairs and focus on young collectors.  Art is now a lot more accessible and is not considered only for the elite. You have more people studying art and entering the art market. As far as trends go, after looking at Art Jakarta I think the taste is still more figurative, which is to be expected from new collectors. People like things they can relate to. Abstraction is more of an acquired taste, but experienced collectors will move to appreciate abstraction.

Erza S.T.

Erza S.T.

Erza S.T. is the founder of Indonesia Opera Society and has helped contribute to the citys classical music scene. An avid traveller, he writes about his forays around the world for NOW! Jakartas travel section.