The Julius Bär-sponsored VIP lounge at Art Jakarta was bustling on day two, going by the unending queue of those seeking sustenance at its coffee and pastries counter. Reminding us that this was an art fair and not a minimalist café with characteristic cement floors and white walls were the large figurative paintings hung around the lounge by Balinese artist I Nyoman Masriadi, who is known for being the first living Southeast Asian artist to sell his work for US$ 1 million in 2008. Borrowed from private collectors, the previously unshown works — featuring his signature blend of black-skinned muscular characters with a pop-culture and comic book slant — were a coup for Jakarta’s premier art fair and its organisers.
It was but one of several triumphant moments at the 11th edition of Art Jakarta (known as Bazaar Art Jakarta until 2017), which drew some 39, 066 visitors from Aug 30 to Sept 1 and announced its ‘arrival’ as one of Asia’s top art events. For many, it was a rebirth of the past 10 editions, which had been held in a much smaller hotel ballroom. The fair has found a new 6,000 sq ft home, with wide aisles and tall ceilings, at the Jakarta Convention Centre (JCC).
Colourful Eko Nugroho embroidery work and a fibreglass sculpture took pride of place just within the hall’s entrance. Next to it was a large disc-shaped ceramic sculpture by Ban-dung artist Albert Yonathan, inspired by his current sojourn in Japan researching Indonesian contemporary ceramic art at Kyoto Seiko University. Placing the works side by side subtly and symbolically represented the two key art scenes in Indonesia — Yogyakarta and Bandung — and their distinctive styles.
A new space alone does not make a rebirth; the revamped fair featured a new logo and a new direction, helmed by an all-new team.
By the evening of the opening day, the man of the hour — fair director Tom Tandio — was breathing easier. The vernissage the day before had no doubt proved assuring, sparking an enthusiastic response from Indonesia’s vibrant arts community as well as the who’s who of Asia-Pacific and beyond — collectors, artists, gallerists, curators and heads of institutions who must have been curious to know how it would all turn out.
Tandio, a mild-mannered and somewhat inscrutable 38-year-old businessman, is one of Southeast Asia’s most well-known collectors whose active involvement in regional fairs has raised his profile considerably in the last decade.
“I think running a fair suits my personality and passion more. I like to network, meet people, introduce people to people, so I think fairs are more my thing,” Tandio said. Renowned for his intellectual and “cerebral” collection — one of his most recent purchases was performance art that came only with verbal instructions as to how it was to be performed — Tandio once operated a private gallery, Gudang. He has since found more meaning in IndoArtNow, an online archive of contemporary Indonesian art that he set up in 2011.
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