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Setting the stage for Jakarta
JAKARTA, a bustling metropolis of 10 million people, growing more rapidly than Beijing or Bangkok, will soon be home to Art Stage Singapore's first regional outpost - Art Stage Jakarta.
In its six years in Singapore, Art Stage Singapore has steadily established itself as South-east Asia's biggest commercial art attraction, attracting about 40,000 local and international visitors.
In recent years, more than 100 satellite art events have popped up around the island city in conjunction with the fair. They include a dozen exhibitions by world-famous artists and two major regional art prizes.
Art Stage Singapore now hopes to replicate its success formula in Jakarta, that sprawling capital of Indonesia known for its thriving ambition and buzzy charms as much as its traffic congestions.
Art Stage founder and president Lorenzo Rudolf says: "Indonesia is a big and powerful market. If Art Stage does not take the first step into Jakarta, someone else will do it. And then it can really become a competition and problem for Singapore."
According to Art Stage, the number of active collectors in Indonesia is estimated to be around 4,000 to 5,000 - which makes it one of the biggest markets in South-east Asia. In contrast, gallerists believe there are only a few hundred active Singaporean collectors. Galleries here rely on Singapore's position as a trade and financial hub to sell art to non-Singaporean collectors.
Art Stage Jakarta will open its doors on Aug 5 for a three-day run at the Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City Hotel. Headed by fair director Leo Silitonga, who formerly helmed Bazaar Art Jakarta, it will have 50 galleries - approximately a third of what Art Stage Singapore typically boasts.
But they include some notable names such as Singapore's FOST and Gajah Gallery, Kuala Lumpur's Wei-Ling Gallery, Manila's Finale Art File and The Drawing Room, and the international gallery Pearl Lam Galleries. Sixteen of the 50 galleries are Indonesian; they include well-known ones such as Galeri Canna, Nadi Gallery, ROH Projects and Semarang Gallery.
Expect strong new works from the biggest names in Indonesian art, including Eko Nugroho, Agus Suwage, Entang Wiharso, Nasirun and indieguerillas. Meanwhile, the international galleries will be bringing works by their big-name artists including Yayoi Kusama, Makoto Aida, Jimmy Ong, Manuel Ocampo, Jigger Cruz and Kumari Nahappan.
Some observers are concerned that Art Stage's foray into Jakarta might mean that Indonesian collectors would be inclined to stay home and buy art there instead of coming to Art Stage Singapore. But Mr Rudolf counters that, saying: "When I was the director of Art Basel (1991-2000), I created Art Basel Miami Beach. There were also fears in Basel then that American collectors would stop coming to Switzerland."
"But the absolute opposite happened. We opened up the American market and, as a consequence, more American collectors than ever came to Basel."
Mr Rudolf thinks the same "will happen" in Singapore if Art Stage ventures into Jakarta - that more Indonesian collectors would fly to Singapore for Art Stage Singapore if they've experienced good art at Art Stage Jakarta.
The location of Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City Hotel is appropriate as the hotel itself showcases artworks by artists the likes of Kusama, Robert Indiana, Ju Ming and Fernando Botero.
Art Stage Jakarta offers free entry to the public and features 14 public artworks spread across the exhibition space. The biggest highlight is the Collector's Show presented over 600 sq m of the fair and featuring modern and contemporary works drawn from the vaults of six well-known Indonesian collectors - namely, Alex Tedja, Deddy Kusuma, Dr Melani Setiawan, Rudy Akili, Tom Tandio and Wiyu Wahono. It is curated by Enin Supriyanto.
Mr Tandio, who is president of Art Stage Jakarta's newly formed Board of Young Collectors, says: "Indonesia is a densely populated country and the number of young collectors are growing much faster than in any of our South-east Asian counterparts."
He admits the art market in Indonesia is experiencing a slowdown, after a heady period of strong growth in previous years. But he hopes that Art Stage Jakarta would rectify that, saying: "It would help to boost the Indonesian art market by creating a buying atmosphere. By participating in an art fair of an international format, many Indonesian galleries are taking their first step of entering the international arena. They will be exposed to the international art market and be better prepared to participate in important art fairs abroad."
Mr Tandio also thinks that the fair gives lesser-known Indonesian artists a chance to connect with international galleries and collectors. He says: "Indonesian artists are as relevant as any artists globally. But not many get the chance to travel abroad. Art Stage Jakarta offers a rare opportunity for dialogue and exchange."
- Art Stage Jakarta runs from Aug 5 - 7 at the Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City Hotel located in South Jakarta. Admission is free.
The fair director
MR Silitonga was formerly the fair director of the eight-year-old Bazaar Art Jakarta, before moving to the new Art Stage Jakarta to helm it. According to him, Art Stage Jakarta will be the first fair in Indonesia to adhere to global standards and protocol of art fairs.
He says: "The Indonesian art market is ready for a professional contemporary art fair. The country has the biggest art scene and market in South-east Asia. But the weakness of our art scene is the lack of infrastructure.
"In March 2017, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN) created by art collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo will open. And that promises to be one of the most serious contemporary art museums in South-east Asia.
"Indonesia thus needs a serious counterpart on the commercial side."
Art Stage Jakarta, he says, will give Indonesian galleries the opportunity to position themselves in an international context and become more competitive.
"It is also not enough for a country to have a large number of outstanding artists, collectors or a uniquely strong domestic market. An important part of the ecosystem - the galleries - will also need to grow. Ultimately, we would like to see great Indonesian art presented and represented by Indonesian galleries all over the world. Art Stage Jakarta is the first step in this direction."
NADI Gallery is one of the leading galleries in Jakarta, with the word "nadi" meaning "vein or artery" in Bahasa. Its stable of artists includes several Indonesian superstars such as Agus Suwage, Eddie Hara and Heri Dono. Founded by Biantoro Santoso in 2000, Nadi is one of the 16 homegrown galleries showing at Art Stage Jakarta.
Mr Santoso says: "What Jakarta needs is not just an art fair, but a quality art fair. Art Stage Jakarta entry into the scene is interesting because there will be competition with other art fairs. (Its main rival is Bazaar Art Jakarta, hitherto Jakarta's biggest art fair.) But I hope that Art Stage will become a classy and excellent event."
Mr Santoso notes that the art market in Indonesia is "rather slow now, similar to the global art market". He says: "There are quite a lot of collectors in Indonesia. But the active ones seen in international fairs and in the media are just a few of them. There are a lot of collectors in Indonesia who don't travel for art and are media-shy."
Unlike in some Asian countries, art holds a very important place in Indonesian society and is strongly supported by private collectors - if not so much the government. Mr Santoso says: "Indonesian art is defined by its strong links to local traditions and cultures. They are what differentiate Indonesian art from that of the rest of the world."
WELL-KNOWN Singapore artist Jimmy Ong started going to Yogyakarta in 2011 and became hooked on the historical and cultural richness of Java. Two years ago, he set up a studio space there to practise his art.
He says: "I don't know why but I have an insatiable curiosity for the the Hindu-Buddhist history and culture of Java. The conflation of its past and present in aspects of ordinary life, like food and rituals of worship, is very interesting to me. I am trying to understand if a certain tolerance of diversity extends to gender and sexual practice as well."
His most recent drawings feature historical imagery and figures such as Sir Stamford Raffles, and will be shown at the FOST booth at Art Stage Jakarta. Raffles founded Singapore in 1819 and had spent the preceding years in Java.
"As a displaced Singaporean artist living in an Indonesian village, I am not unlike Raffles invading the Javanese palace. Yogyakarta has a vibrant artist community that is hospitable to foreign guests like me, and whose facilities and crafts people I guiltily feel I am only exploiting and not contributing back very much for now."
Ong's drawings are no straight re-telling of history. They explore contemporary issues of politics and sexuality through their period imagery. Intriguingly, Ong has also begun creating batik designs with Raffles in mind, using the iconography of the period to further comment on power structures.