Art: Shared and Democratized

Picking up from my last column about art merchandises at, among others, 9th Bazaar Art Jakarta, and the frank talk with artist Eddie Hara, I’m pleased to see how art has been further shared and democratized.

Launched last year with much fanfare, partly thanks to its Singapore affiliation, last week’s Art Stage Jakarta has consistently accomplished two things—bringing quality artworks for collectors to peruse, and letting public to have access to arts they can enjoy.

Last year it was the collaboration with Sotheby’s to exhibit Affandi’s paintings, curated thoughtfully and displayed grandly. Borrowed from various sources including private collectors, the masterpieces wouldn’t have otherwise been accessible to laymen like me, or my friends who’d never ventured out into museums yet came dragging their kids last year to see Affandi’s legendary self-portraits. Taking into context how poor art is taught in schools and how inadequate most of our museums are, granting an easy access to fine art and managing to lure the masses deserved due praises.

This year Art Stage went further by collaborating with more art’s stakeholders to create a weeklong festivity in Jakarta, similar to how ArtJog drives a month-long art event in Yogyakarta. For collectors there are satellite events throughout August like Sakato Art Community’s group exhibition in Nadi Gallery and Iabadiou Piko’s solo in D’Gallery.

During Art Stage itself there were a small contemporary art exhibition and an art bazaar located inside the mall adjacent to the main venue, making it accessible even to random mall passersby. Titled “Spirit Today”, it comprised of contemporary art installations owned by five young Indonesian collectors with different personal taste and yet the similarity in their borderless view in collecting art, a departure from the previous generation who often placed importance in an artist’s nationality. To see their curated collections at a metropolitan’s shopping mall frequented mostly by patrons under the age of thirty was a step further into art education we’ve sorely been lacking.

Called Art Square, the bazaar was small, yet stocked with art merchandises and very affordable art pieces for art aficionados. Located at the mall’s atrium, it cut off any possible psychological boundaries of “watching a spectacle I may not understand”, although walk-ins would be surprisingly delighted by adorable ceramics from heavyweights likes of Marc Chagall and Marina Abramovic or Jeff Koons’ famed balloons.

As for Indonesian talents, aside from interesting pieces offered by art schools and emerging artist communities, or popular pieces from the likes of Eddie Hara and Roby Dwiantono, there was an exquisite silk scarf designed by talented fashion designer Stella Rissa based on Sudjojono’s four sketches selected by S Sudjojono Center—produced for a limited number by the newly opened Can’s Gallery. Silk scarves based on an artist’s work are all the rage nowadays, but this latest addition deserves its own spotlight for the seamless design and meticulous finish. Maya Sudjojono, the late painter’s daughter, believed public should still be able to enjoy her father’s works long obtained by collectors. Echoing the sentiment, Inge of Can’s Gallery said everyone should have an access to art depending on their current level of interest and commitment. I said amen to both.

The democratization didn’t stop, for this week until the end of August Plaza Indonesia is hosting a fine art exhibition of 45 Indonesian artists. Themed “Becoming Indonesia” and curated well by renowned art critic Suwarno Wisetrotomo, multi-generation artists from three large cities put forth what they think Indonesia has become or is becoming on its 72nd year.

There are Sigit Santosa’s pointed message on how the “Indonesia” in Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia (NKRI) is yet to form, a sculpture by Basrizal Albara showing how acronym NKRI is only a lip service, Arie Kadarisman’s depiction of Jokowi contemplating the state symbol Garuda Pancasila, Nasirun’s cheeky installation of the disappearing of Indonesian native group’s costumes, and Hari Budiono’s haunting painting of Chinese-Indonesian youth holding back tears.

Curator Suwarno repeatedly stressed the importance of bringing art closer to public, especially where consumerism swings wildly, like at downtown malls, to balance off the consumption drive. Asked whether he was worry that art, which has long served as social critique to hedonistic excesses, would be diluted when consistently placed in close vicinity with the very matters it posed to ponder, Suwarno believed that while the worry was warranted, it wouldn’t materialize as long as artists held their critical ground and chose a side accordingly. Sounds abstract, but when you think about it, it does make sense and is considerably doable. So, kudos to the artists and mall management who chose to build a bridge between the two worlds and shared it with the audience at large.

You go inside while I wait out here—years ago someone said that after driving me to an art gallery, like I was going to take him to some daunting exercise. Now that art has been relatively more shared and democratized, I hope they’re seeping into our collective consciousness. From my personal experiences, art gives room to questioning ourselves, to working through changes, and to rounding off the sharp differences. In the current state of Indonesia with too real diversity and too little unity, art is one of the paths to cool heads and open hearts. Here’s to your 72nd anniversary, Indonesia.

As published: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/08/19/urban-chat-art-shared-and-democratized.html 

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