Art Jakarta: Defining Fair for SEA?

Director Tom Tandio leads the way
By A&M

Art Agenda, S.E.A.,'The Landscape Show' at Art Jakarta 2019. Image courtesy of Art Agenda, S.E.A.

Art Agenda, S.E.A.,'The Landscape Show' at Art Jakarta 2019. Image courtesy of Art Agenda, S.E.A.

The eleventh edition of Art Jakarta closed on 1 September 2019, with galleries confident of its future under the leadership of director Tom Tandio. Originally known as Bazaar Art Jakarta, Indonesia's oldest art fair was renamed in 2017 and remains owned by the MRA Media Group. Efforts to refresh the fair, including a new team, a new logo and a new venue at the Jakarta Convention Centre (JCC), spoke to its ambitions of growing into an art fair of international calibre.

Indeed, excitement around Art Jakarta 2019 was palpable, with an overwhelming turnout on its preview day. Over its three-day run, the fair attracted more than 39,000 visitors, including a number of prominent collectors such as Deddy Kusuma, Budi Tek, Alain Servais and Ruby Tseng. Gridthiya Gaweewong, Artistic Director of the Jim Thompson Art Centre, June Yap, Curatorial Director of the Singapore Art Museum, Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator of the Mori Museum and Pauline J. Yao, Lead Curator of M+ were among notable art professionals in attendance.

Against the backdrop of Art Stage's demise, Art Moments Jakarta's lackluster debut in May and the postponement of Art SG to October 2020, the million-dollar question is: can Art Jakarta become the defining art fair of Southeast Asia?

Nova Contemporary, featuring works by Prae Pupiyastaporn, Latthapon Korkiatarkul, Tada Hengsapkul, Viriya Chotpanyavisut, Aracha Cholitgul and Nipan Oranniwesna. Image courtesy of Nova Contemporary.

Nova Contemporary, featuring works by Prae Pupiyastaporn, Latthapon Korkiatarkul, Tada Hengsapkul, Viriya Chotpanyavisut, Aracha Cholitgul and Nipan Oranniwesna. Image courtesy of Nova Contemporary.

The fair had a strong regional focus, with around 30 galleries from Indonesia and 15 from Singapore. Out of the 70 galleries featured, 20 participated for the first time. Bangkok-based Nova Contemporary offered a unique selection of emerging and established Thai artists, which garnered positive response. The gallery sold works to Indonesian and Chinese collectors on the first two days. "There was a lot of interest because we brought new artists," says founder Sutima Sucharitakul. When asked if the gallery intends to return for the fair's next edition, her response was swift, "Yes of course! Tom is a dear friend and I think Jakarta is a very interesting market."

The consensus from galleries was that the fair was well-organised from start to finish. Singapore-based FOST Gallery founder Stephanie Fong remarks, "I am happy with the sales and pleased that we met new collectors who were interested in works by our other artists whose works we did not bring to the fair." She complimented Tandio and the fair team on their organisation, from marketing the fair to setting up the event itself. "The fair was only for three days but it was clear they had worked very hard in the months preceding. Kudos to them."

Ian Woo, 'Blind Spot', 2013, acrylic on linen, 75 x 85cm. Image courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery.

Ian Woo, 'Blind Spot', 2013, acrylic on linen, 75 x 85cm. Image courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery.

Hwankwon Yi, 'middle school student Ji-Sung' (detail), 2008, hand-painted F.R.P, 141.5 x 20 x 27cm, edition 1 of 5. Image courtesy of Gallery Yeh.

Hwankwon Yi, 'middle school student Ji-Sung' (detail), 2008, hand-painted F.R.P, 141.5 x 20 x 27cm, edition 1 of 5. Image courtesy of Gallery Yeh.

The combined experience of the Art Jakarta’s organising team shows in the rejuvenated fair. Tandio was formerly the artistic director of Art Stage while fair consultant Gil Schneider was its director of exhibitor management. Show manager Penny Binarwati has been with Art Jakarta since its Bazaar days, and Artistic Director Enin Supriyanto brings with him years of curatorial and writing experience. Bangeun Kim, president of Gallery Yeh from Seoul, first met the Art Jakarta team at Korea International Art Fair (KIAF) and was convinced to introduce her artists to the Indonesian market. They brought a selection of unique and edition works by Korean sculptors Jun Noh, Hwankwon Yi and Jaeyong Kim. "I got a very good impression and met many new collectors," says Kim. "We hope to continue the interaction."

TKG+ booth, featuring works by Mit Jai Inn and Sawangwongse Yawnghwe. Image courtesy of TKG+.

TKG+ booth, featuring works by Mit Jai Inn and Sawangwongse Yawnghwe. Image courtesy of TKG+.

Among the three galleries from Taipei, TKG+ stood out for their presentation which focused on works by Southeast Asian artists, namely: Mit Jai Inn and Sawangwongse Yawnghwe. Both artists are connected by their painting practices which inject elements of history and politics into formal discourses. Mit made a splash at the 21st Sydney Biennale with his immersive painting installation while Yawnghwe is part of the upcoming Asia Art Biennial in Taiwan. TKG+ was pleased with their first participation at Art Jakarta, citing positive reception from regional collectors. “People are what makes the fair perfect,” the gallery stated. “We received a lot of local support and feedback and will definitely consider coming back next year.”

Galerie Taménaga, which has spaces in Tokyo, Paris and Osaka, is no stranger to the region. The gallery has established contacts, from their previous participation in Art Stage Singapore in 2016 and Art Stage Jakarta in 2017. Their booth featured gestural abstract works by Chen Jiang Hong, Takehiko Sugawara and Tamihito Yoshikawa, as well as photorealist paintings by Lorenzo Fernandez. Commercial director Kiyomaru Taménaga shared that it was an opportunity to reconnect with existing clients, especially international ones from Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. He also expressed that the gallery is keen to return next year.

Ronald Ventura, 'Bobro's World Tour Jakarta', 2019, installation view. Presented by Yavuz Gallery as part of Art Jakarta Spot. Image courtesy of Yavuz Gallery.

Ronald Ventura, 'Bobro's World Tour Jakarta', 2019, installation view. Presented by Yavuz Gallery as part of Art Jakarta Spot. Image courtesy of Yavuz Gallery.

At the beginning of Hall B, the entrance to Ronald Ventura's eye-popping installation 'Bobro's World Tour' was marked by the yawning mouth of a giant golden bulldog. Amidst a sea of concrete floor and white partition walls, it was a jolt to the senses and a crowd favourite, judging from its circulation on social media. Partly inspired by the idea of a "man cave", the interior decked out with Ventura's art objects, leather sofas, a collection of designer sneakers and even a karaoke machine. "The responses to the installation were fantastic," says Yavuz Gallery executive Caryn Quek. "People were singing non-stop at the karaoke booth throughout the fair, and we had queues waiting to get in!"

Quek also reported that the gallery nearly sold out their main booth, with works by their Indonesian artists going to new collectors. Other Southeast Asian artists like Ventura, Ian Tee and Alvin Ong sold to a mix of new and existing clients.

Ahmad Sadali, 'Gunungan', 1976, mixed media on canvas, 206 x 150cm. Image courtesy of Art Agenda, S.E.A.

Ahmad Sadali, 'Gunungan', 1976, mixed media on canvas, 206 x 150cm. Image courtesy of Art Agenda, S.E.A.

The rise in attendance and market activity from young collectors in the region has not gone unnoticed, and auction houses have been keen to make connections. Philips’s cross-category exhibition of art, watches and jewellery was received with much enthusiasm. “A lot of the new generation of Southeast Asian art collectors visited our booth at Art Jakarta," says Isaure de Viel Castel, Head of 20th Century and Contemporary Art at Phillips Asia. "Among the artworks presented, works by KAWS were very popular and we also received inquiries for works by Yoshitomo Nara, Madsaki and Aya Takano."

Jefferson Jong, Director of Art Agenda, S.E.A. (AASEA), observed a similar uptick, “While the pulse of the market remains strong with established collectors regionally, we are seeing growing interest amongst emerging collectors in the area of 20th century art which we specialise in."

AASEA had also arranged a luncheon jointly with auction house Bonhams on the second day of the fair to meet with established and young collectors for conversations on art and horology.

At the fair, AASEA presented an ambitious thematic exhibition that surveyed the development of modern Indonesian painting, beginning in the Dutch colonial era with Raden Saleh and the Mooi Indie painters, and ending with lyrical abstract artists such as Srihadi Soedarsono and Nashar. Titled ‘The Landscape Show’, it featured more than 30 paintings and provided a range of entry points for different groups of collectors. Ahmad Sadali's 'Gunungan', an exceptional mixed media painting from 1976, and Affandi's 1957 ink on paper 'The Sea' were among the booth's highlights.

Can's Gallery, featuring works by Entang Wiharso, Eddie Hara, J. A. Pramuhendra, Arkiv Vilmansa, Oky Rey Montha and Muklay. Image courtesy of Can's Gallery.

Can's Gallery, featuring works by Entang Wiharso, Eddie Hara, J. A. Pramuhendra, Arkiv Vilmansa, Oky Rey Montha and Muklay. Image courtesy of Can's Gallery.

Local galleries were out in full force and generally of the opinion that the renewed Art Jakarta was a timely injection of energy into the regional art scene. Edwin Rahardjo, founder of Edwin's Gallery and the head of Indonesian Association of Art Galleries (AGSI), is optimistic of the Art Jakarta’s future. "It is going to be a very important fair," he explains. "Jakarta is a significant base because of the collectors, especially new young ones who are interested in art. We can see the growth, it's becoming more vibrant and international." Rahardjo also pointed out that JCC is attached to a bonded warehouse which allowed artworks to be brought in and only taxed when sold, an instrumental factor in attracting the participation of international galleries.

Most of the galleries reported steady sales. Previously known as Galerie Canna and founded by Inge Santoso in 2001, Can's Gallery, the second oldest gallery in Indonesia, exhibited a cross-generational mix of six Indonesian artists: Entang Wiharso, Eddie Hara, J. A. Pramuhendra, Arkiv Vilmansa, Oky Rey Montha and Muklay. Santoso shared that they sold more than one painting by each of them to Indonesian, Malaysian and Australian collectors from their client base.

Bandung, one of the major art production centres in Indonesia, is represented by Bale Project, the business arm of Selasar Sunaryo Art Space (SSAS). Their booth was a snapshot of Bandung art scene, featuring the works of living senior artists such as AD Pirous, Rita Widagdo and Sunaryo, alongside emerging names like Hedi Soetardja. “Tom Tandio did an excellent job! We are really happy with the fair’s atmosphere,” said programme assistant Aditya Lingga. “The venue provided a neutral setting which is perfect for this event and we met many new domestic and international collectors. We hope to see everyone again next year!”

Bale Project booth, featuring Sunaryo’s ‘Bloodmoon 2’. Image courtesy of Bale Project.

Bale Project booth, featuring Sunaryo’s ‘Bloodmoon 2’. Image courtesy of Bale Project.

In general, participating galleries are cautiously optimistic about the fair’s longevity. "The Indonesian government's support would also be crucial to make Art Jakarta as a significant art fair through regulation updates and infrastructure upgrades," comments Jong. While the traffic jams in Jakarta may be harder to resolve, measures such as decreasing the tax for imported art (which currently stands at 17%) will go a long way to encourage more foreign galleries to participate by lowering their costs.

Santoso also states that the fair's long-term success will depend on its ability to continue introducing participating galleries to new clients. For that, she suggests a more targeted approach to inviting guests.

Art Jakarta 2019 fairground. Image courtesy of Art Jakarta.

Art Jakarta 2019 fairground. Image courtesy of Art Jakarta.

The time for the city to shine is now, especially after the recent announcement that Jakarta-based art collective ruangrupa will be the creative director of Documenta15. Happening once every five years in the city of Kassel, Germany, Documenta remains one of the most important exhibitions in the contemporary art circuit. ruangrupa’s appointment is nothing short of a historical moment as it is the first time the event will be led by a team from Asia. With the exception of Nigerian-born curator Okwui Enwezor who directed the 11th edition in 2002, this position has been dominated by individuals or groups from Europe or the United States.

Under the international spotlight, interest in Indonesia’s art scene has never been greater. Coupled with a more stable political situation and increasing state support such as through the creative economy agency BEKRAF, the confluence of factors is grounds for confidence. The next chapter of Art Jakarta is starting on a very good page.

The twelfth edition of Art Jakarta is set to happen from 28 to 30 August 2020, at JCC.