Indonesia's New Gallery is Bringing Asian Art to the World

Yayoi Kusama - Infinity Mirrored Room
Yayoi Kusama - Infinity Mirrored Room | © Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore via Museum MACAN
Photo of Edira Putri
28 November 2017

Like a gust of air fanning a timid fire, the contemporary art scene in Indonesia is experiencing renewed vigour with the opening of its first international contemporary art gallery, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Indonesia (MACAN).

This impressive modern museum was the culmination of 25 years of acquiring important artwork by businessman and art collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo. It boasts an extensive and star-studded collection, ranging from legendary native painters to international contemporary artists. In a way, the museum carries the extent and depth of the nation’s history dating back to the colonial era.

Notable collection

Among the 800 collections housed by Museum MACAN, about half of them are works of native artists, including the fabled Raden Saleh, Sudjojono – who went on to paint some works that became part of the presidential collection – and even renowned contemporary artists like Christine Ay Tjoe and FX Harsono.

The rest of the pieces come from international artists, a great deal of them from Asia. Museum MACAN is probably the only place in Indonesia to have Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst under one roof.

Yayoi Kusama - Infinity Mirrored Room | © Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore via Museum MACAN

Amid a diverse range of artwork and the various messages they convey, there’s still an unmistakable element of continuity that connects it all into one vision of cross-cultural exchange in Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and beyond.

Bringing Indonesia to the world and the world to Indonesia, this contemporary art museum managed to land on the sweet intersection of cultural indigeneity and global outlook.

Inaugural exhibition

For its first exhibition, Museum MACAN presented “Art Turns. World Turns”. The project highlighted the dynamic reality between people and their homeland, organised into four chronological sections that spanned two centuries – from colonialism to global outlook.

Museum MACAN Interior | © Culture Trip

Former presidential painter Sudjojono’s “Ngaso” or “taking a break” depicts the downtime during Indonesia’s struggles for kedaulatan or sovereignty. As an artist, Sudjojono was very involved in politics, and his realist works of art are considered important representations of people and context in that important episode of history.

Ngaso by Sindudarsono Sudjojono | Courtesy of Museum MACAN

Lingga-Yoni by Arahmaiani Feisal is one of the museum’s most important acquisitions. The controversial artwork put Feisal’s life in danger as Islamic hardliners threatened to kill her for the nuanced male and female genitalia on Arabic scripts.

The controversial Lingga-Yoni / | © Culture Trip

Yukinori Yanagi’s bio-kinetic installation called ASEAN +3, used coloured sand, plastic, and ants to form flags of Southeast Asian countries plus China, Japan, and South Korea to depict geopolitical changes post-World War II.

ASEAN +3 by Yukinori Yanagi | © Culture Trip

Andy Warhol’s iconic Portrait of Madame Smith also made it to Museum MACAN’s walls.

Andy Warhol at Museum MACAN / | © Culture Trip

From works by Andy Warhol to paintings on Andy Warhol. Chinese artist Wang Guangyi fused Chinese propaganda posters with icons of Western consumer culture in his ‘Political Pop’ artwork.

Andy Warhol by Wang Guangyi | © Culture Trip

Ai Weiwei’s critical observations on freedom and social injustice found their place in the museum through bold graphic artworks.

Ai Wei Wei at Museum MACAN | © Culture Trip

Facilitating education

Museum MACAN knows how to present itself well to a nation where art enthusiasm is growing but art appreciation, participation, and infrastructure still call for improvement. Through its curated education programme, MACAN seeks to encourage the general public to get more involved in cultural engagements, especially through art.

Every weekend the museum organises public and family tours, and regularly sponsors school visits to fulfill its mission of making art more accessible to the public. The museum also actively commissions new artwork to add to its foundations and to broaden its perspectives.

Entang Wiharso at Museum MACAN / | © Culture Trip

The museum’s first commission by acclaimed Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso is also featured in the inaugural exhibition. It revolves around themes of ecology, permaculture, and their place in urban Jakarta.

Stunning interior

A suitable home for world-class remarkable pieces, the museum’s interior is a work of art itself. Designed by the award-winning MET Studio from London, Museum MACAN boasts a free-flowing modern space with calming, earthy tones and minimal distractions. Located on the 5th floor of Wisma AKR, West Jakarta, a part of the museum offers a sweeping view of Jakarta’s skyline.

Museum MACAN Interior | © Culture Trip

Keeping education at its heart, the museum also dedicates a special area for children, artistically decorated with colourful, whimsical ornaments that will spark joy and creativity. Also sharing the floor with the museum is the renowned 1/15 Coffee that provides urbanites their favourite beverages as the perfect companion for the complete insightful and artistic experience.

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