Recap: Art Jakarta 2023 draws more exhibitors and diverse industry support

The event celebrates and promotes creativity at a bigger venue this year.

This year, exhibitors took up 68 booths — 40 by Indonesian galleries and the remainder by those from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Australia (All photos: Art Jakarta)

A new, bigger venue and more exhibitors were just one part of the excitement at Art Jakarta, held at the JIEXPO Kemayoran. Firm support from partners in various industries as well as programmes specially curated to show the best in contemporary art brought experienced and emerging artists together over three days in November, with many eagerly joining hands to foster creativity.

Collaborations with partners were categorised under Prizes, Presentations and AJX, the last an initiative by the institutions and private companies involved to bring their collections to a wider audience.

Works by artists from Asean and South Korea, some on loan from collectors and galleries, were among exhibits that mapped and connected the development of art between those geographical points in Perseverance: Art Crossing Borders, a showcase that took up a corner at the fair and was the key focus at nearby Art:1 New Museum. Malaysian collector Alvin Tan lent his Whisper from Another Dimension by Bernandi Desanda for show at Art:1. Indonesia’s Diaz Parzada did the same with Bhasa Jiva Vamsa, a spray-painted fibreglass creation by Malaysia’s Tan Zi Hao, from his collection.

Another AJX project showed portraits of fellow artists taken over the years by Indonesia’s Indra Leonardi, who compiled them in Vice Versa. The book attracted much interest and discussion as it includes the artists’ responses to the photos, capturing the camaraderie of creative ties.

Prizes unveiled new works that clinched honours at competitions organised by fair partners United Overseas Bank, Julius Baer and Bibit. Winners of Julius Baer’s Next Generation Art Prize in Asia 2023 hung at its VIP lounge, while winning pieces by Southeast Asian artists filled the bank’s art space. Three multimedia pieces that emerged tops in Supermusic Superstar, a contest organised by Superlive, a digital creative platform and website for youth, drew crowds with vibrant, colourful designs built around the theme, ‘Reconstruction The Deconstruction’.


Park Jihyun’s 'Thomas 6.1944 S 106.8229 E', created from discarded domusong blades collected from local workshops, shows that every object has its own story to tell

Mairul Nisa Malek, the most promising artist at UOB Painting of the Year Malaysia, was at UOB Indonesia’s booth with Isok Kito Mudik, Tido Awai — “Sleep early, we will go to the town tomorrow”, as the Sarawakians would say. It is part of her Series 2 of works using cement and rice paper.

Digital investment platform Bibit, the third Art Jakarta partner, laid out 178 glass cabinets by Syagini Ratna Wulan. Memory Mirror Palace had all sorts of objects placed within glass cabinets inscribed with text — words forming phrases, statements or questions that prompt visitors to imagine, make sense of things and maybe look for ‘answers’ among the whole setup. This debut exhibit was developed from Lost Verses, which the Indonesian artist showcased at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

“Art is subjective, it is difficult for me to send a message from me to you directly. So I make participatory work where is actor is not me but the audience. It is generative story-telling, where some people can find their own narrative. I started this long before that became the trend, around 2012,” Syagini said.

Her cabinets were well positioned at JIEXPO, underscoring fair director Tom Tandio’s point that its 10,000 sq m space allowed galleries to put up public installations compared to the previous more central venue, the Jakarta Convention Centre.

“We are able to work with partners to produce bigger site-specific installations. I think that’s very crucial. With the seamless line-up of galleries, this venue also offered exhibitors and visitors a better environment to present and enjoy the latest and best in contemporary art,” Tandio said.

He was also excited about the curated programmes featuring a mix of very senior and young artists. He mentioned Bunga Yuridespita among the latter, who translated a three-dimensional painting into a sculpture in Transfigured Memories, creating “many possibilities of shape in a limited box”, bringing her architecture training to bear.

The collaborations are important, Tandio emphasised. The fact that all the Art Jakarta partners showcased art projects was exciting because “their curation is something very unique”.

At this 13th edition, exhibitors took up 68 booths — 40 by Indonesian galleries and the remainder by those from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Australia. Figures released by the organisers put the number of visitors at 35,578, compared to 32,779 in 2022.

Was Tandio targeting a particular crowd from the region? “No. Our guests every year are prominent Southeast Asian and Asian collectors from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. We always invite them. There’s a very big contingent of Malaysian collectors who always support us. At the same time, we bring Indonesian collectors to CIMB Artober Art & Soul.  It’s sort of like an exchange between us and Malaysia.”


With 'Where Do the Spirits Go?', Jompet Kuswidananto attempts to observe the practice of mysticism

As for the growth of artists in Indonesia, he reckoned it was hard to gauge because of the pandemic. “But now that it is over, you can see more and more of them starting to go overseas again, to do residencies and shows in museums. A lot of Indonesian artists are also studying abroad, taking PhDs in places like Melbourne and the Netherlands. I think that’s part of the growth.”

Asked what is unique about Indonesian artists, he asserted: “One thing I have always believed is we shouldn’t divide artists by country. Art is borderless and artists are artists. They can be born anywhere and go anywhere. The only difference is that with those born here, the reference of their work usually comes from Indonesia.”

Fourteen new exhibitors presented at the fair, which also had a section where artist collectives and non-profit groups could raise funds for their respective causes. At the corner called Play by UOB Indonesia, children took part in creative activities centred around ‘Plant a Tree, Plant a Life’. The space was commissioned to Farhan Siki, winner of the UOB Indonesia Painting of the Year 2022.

AJ Talk was a platform for dialogue between art experts, artists, collectors, curators and designers to share their experience and knowledge with the eager audiences. Those who had followed the country’s art development flocked to meet Makassar-born critic Carla Bianpoen, whose Illuminations: Selected Media Publications (1980-2023) was launched there at the fair.

Bianpoen, 87 — “and a half”, she smiled — observed that Indonesian art has seen new works and ideas linked to science and technology. “They were not there before and I’m getting excited about that,” said the icon who has been writing for four decades and continues to do so. Among her books is Into the Future: Indonesian Women Artists.


Yim often uses soft, malleable materials as they can be easily shaped; 'Under the Tree' by Eko Nugroho looks at Indonesian society in the current political climate

She is tickled whenever people ask her to teach them to write. “I first wrote for fun as I was getting bored in the office while working for the World Bank. Then I got interested in writing about art because an artist inspired me. After my retirement, I became a full-time writer. I don’t draw or paint, not at all. I’m inspired by artists and their visionary ideas.”

Art Jakarta will return to JIEXPO Kemayoran in October 2024. A+ Works of Art, a Malaysian exhibitor this year, is already planning to be part of the action.

“The crowd was quite exhilarating,” said A+ operations manager Hariz Raof. “The opening day saw more than your genuine collectors. There was a good mix of keen buyers, gallery supporters and ordinary folk who love art. I think the first day was a little ‘overwhelming’ for guests — they had to come on the second day to make their ‘purchases’.

“Yes, the larger space was indeed good and all the galleries that took part showed great pieces. The solo artists who had installations were also fascinating. Our gallery did great. Not only did we befriend more of our local collectors, but we also expanded our client base. Our different installations over three days — among them four works by Yim Yen Sum — were definitely a surprise for guests and galleries as they saw new and exciting works every day. Yes, we will most definitely come back next year.”

Suleyman Azhari, co-founder and director of Rissim Contemporary, the other Malaysian exhibitor, said the layout worked well for gallerists and collectors. “It was all in one central space, similar to some of the major art fairs in the world such as Freize or Basel. It felt easy to navigate.”

Rissim presented two local contemporary abstract artists, Saiful Razman and Fadhli Ariffin. “With an assemblage of colours and textures, each work was created specifically for Art Jakarta to showcase how their artistic perspectives resonate and respond to the environment within Malaysia’s vibrant ecosystem.

“It’s our first international art fair and we were very happy with the response from collectors and the Indonesian ecosystem in general. We managed to place works in Singapore and Indonesia during the event, growing our international collector base for our artists.”


This article first appeared on Dec 11, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.

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