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Indonesian Art in the Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Century

Art: 1 New Museum, Jakarta

08/01/15 - 07/31/16


The paintings in this collection show the development of Indonesian art in the twentieth and onto the twenty-first century. The paintings of Abdullah Suriosubroto and Wakidi presents a romanticized view of the Indonesian landscape despite the fact that they were done during the colonial times, and supported the notion of the Mooi Indië (the Beautiful Indies). Modern Indonesian painting was often considered to be introduced by Sindhudarsono Sudjojono who urged Indonesian painters to shy away from painting in the Mooi Indie genre and create artworks that expressed their own thoughts and feelings. A rare drawing in this collection shows the pioneer artist’s depiction of his experience taking part of the Youth Festival for Peace and Friendship in Berlin, 1951. In accord with Sudjojono’s thoughts, during the early development of Indonesian art, artists often painted the lives of the common folk, using their own artistic styles. Affandi worked with an economy of lines of color, while Hendra Gunawan’s paintings were drenched in forms and color.

Following the bloody aftermath the political struggles of the mid 1960s, many artists avoided painting the lives of the common people fearing its association with Communist political inclinations. Artists who studied in Bandung under the tutelage of Ries Mulder who was a propagator of Analytical Cubism, such as But Mochtar and Gregorius Sidharta, had already tended to work with Cubist abstraction since the 1950s and early 1960s, developed their abstractions further. In Yogyakarta, artists such as Suparto and Bagong Kussudiardjo, tended to favor Decorativism, which took much of its inspiration from traditional Indonesian motifs. Others, such as Rusli and Fajar Sidik, developed their own individual abstractions. Some artists, such as Chris Suharso in Jakarta, Koempoel in Surabaya, and Putu Ngurah Wardhana in Bali, chose to concentrate on painting landscapes. Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Nashar propagated his “Three Non” artistic notion that negated concept, object and technique. This continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

By the end of the 1980s, artists associated with the Lekra (People’s Cultural Agency) of the Communist Party and were detained following the aborted coup d’etat of 1965, had been released from prison and became active again creating artworks. After the fall of Soeharto in 1998, political reforms started to take place and artists who were members of Lekra such as Amrus Natalsya, started to express their thoughts about political and racial discrimination, with marked freedom. In the twenty-first century it seems that Indonesia has managed to enjoy tremendous economic development. Many modern artists and art collectors developed more sophisticated yet formalistic artistic tastes, as can be seen in the later works of Jeihan Sukmantoro, Srihadi Soedarsono and Sunaryo. Single works of art can tell many stories about the artist who created the piece and the society around which he lived and his life experiences. Once enough works have been collected and can be considered a collection, they often reflect a part of the history of the society in which the pieces were created and collected. That should be part of the joy of collecting.