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Collectors lend buzz to Art Stage Jakarta
THERE are considerable differences between the Singapore and Indonesian art collector, observed one regional art dealer. He explained: "Many Indonesian collectors live in large houses, and they are happy to open them up for people to see their collection. At the same time, they love to throw parties for hundreds of people. They are not shy - unlike most Singapore collectors."
At the inaugural edition of Art Stage Jakarta, there were house parties thrown by major collectors for every night of the fair - on top of the pool-side parties organised by Art Stage at the fair in Sheraton Grand.
Real estate tycoon Deddy Kusuma pitched huge tents in his home garden to showcase his hundreds of artworks - Nyoman Masriadi, Yue Minjun, Ronald Ventura, Handiwirman Saputra, and others of their ilk - to hundreds of guests. There was even a stage erected in front of the pool where he could showcase something else - his penchant for belting out rock 'n' roll classics with a live band.
"Over the years, I've established close relationships with many artists whose works I collect, and it's a pity if other people don't get to see these works and be impressed by their genius," he pointed out.
Next door to Mr Kusuma was an even more palatial home belonging to another real estate magnate, Alex Tedja, who owns the Sheraton Grand. Unlike Mr Kusuma, Mr Tedja had a stricter invite list. Less than a hundred people were allowed into his home that night. But the lucky ones got to see his well-curated gallery of works that included a few Affandis, Lee Man Fongs, Hendra Gunawans - and even one Walter Spies in perfect condition.
"The Spies work is well-preserved because, for a long time, it belonged to a collector in Europe. If it was kept in Indonesia all this while, the humidity might have affected how it looked now," a friend of Mr Tedja explained.
In his living room hung large pieces by the who's who of Asian art - Zao Wou-ki, Takashi Murakami, Srihadi Soedarsono and others. Mr Tedja, however, wanted to retain his privacy, so no picture taken of his home or works is allowed to be published.
Besides the two men, other collectors such as Wiyu Wahono, Rudy Akili, Prasojo Winarko and Susan Santoso also hosted tours of their private collections. There's a jubilantly familial feel to these events - every guest who walks through the gates is treated almost like an old friend.
It's small wonder that Singaporean collectors who have had a taste of the Indonesian scene - be it in Jakarta or the other two hubs of Indonesian art, Jogjakarta and Bandung - often return to experience its warmth and hospitality again.
Art Stage Jakarta is the first regional outpost of Singapore's biggest art fair, Art Stage Singapore. After six years in Singapore, fair founder Lorenzo Rudolf felt it was the right time to expand the brand down north. He, too, got hooked on Indonesian hospitality some years ago when Mr Kusuma invited him to his home where Mr Rudolf and his wife were greeted by 400 of Mr Kusuma's friends.
Mr Rudolf shared: "There are two simple reasons for us expanding to Jakarta. One is emotional - my wife and I simply love the art scene and all the people involved. The other is rational - in Asia, Indonesia has the biggest art scene and market after China."
The three-day fair which ended on Sunday saw a visitor turnout of 15,180, supported by the presence of all the biggest artists of the country, including Heri Dono, Agus Suwage and FX Harsono. In terms of sales, first-hand reports were mixed. Among the 49 galleries from 16 countries, some such as ROH Projects and Bale Project sold well, while some reported poor sales. Notably, galleries selling familiar Indonesian names saw the most traffic.
Sale figures aside, many gallerists agreed that the fair was well-organised with very few logistical hiccups. There were several Singapore galleries in the fair, including Gajah Gallery, FOST, Yeo Workshop and Galerie Sogan & Art, showcasing Singapore artists such as Henri Chen KeZhan, Suzann Victor, Kumari Nahappan, Jimmy Ong and Zai Kuning.
Jun Tirtadji, the director of ROH Projects, said: "We've taken part in more than a dozen fairs, and I think this was really well done. Galleries with large sculptures and installations were given a proper space to display their art well.
"Infrastructurally, Indonesia is still lagging in crucial ways. For one, we need more galleries to do more shows so the public can see more art and get involved. So the fair is a step in the right direction, and I'd be happy to participate again next year."