macan | indonesia takes on modern art

November 10, 2017

words by: Bere Wangge

The beautiful beast awakes. Opened to the public officially on November 4, 2017, Museum Macan is Indonesia’s first ever museum of contemporary art. The word “Macan” itself is Indonesian for tiger; here, though, it's short for Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Archipelago).

To say that the public were enthusiastic about Museum Macan would be an understatement. Judging from the excitement shown by journalists at the press preview and the long queue of visitors (waiting in line, sometimes, to take selfies with the artworks), the museum opening was a roaring success.

It’s even more remarkable when you remember that the museum is located in a less-than-strategic place given its positioning in traffic-notorious Jakarta. Perhaps we can safely say that art moves people. And that's somehow in line with the theme of the museum’s inaugural exhibition.

To commemorate the museum's opening, an exhibition entitled Art Turns. World Turns will be held until March 18, 2018. With Indonesian history as a guiding framework, the exhibition explores the international events that have influenced Indonesian society and, of course, the art scene. During his opening speech, co-curator Charles Esche noted that art helped shape the world’s perception of Bali in the 1960s, and in turn drove the influx of “Australians on those cheap trips.”

Museum Macan in Jakarta, Indonesia Opened Inaugural Exhibition Art Turns World Turns - 01.jpg

Divided into four sections, the exhibition includes works from the 19th century to the present by artists from Asia, Europe and North America. It begins with the “Land, Home, People” section, studying the way Western artists during the colonial era viewed the rich landscapes of Indonesia, particularly Bali. This section also looks at the way Western and Indonesian artists have influenced each other.

The second section, “Independence and After,” highlights artworks by legendary local painters such as Affandi, Hendra Gunawan and S. Sudjojono, who depicted the political situation in the country in the years 1945 to 1949 in their own ways.

Meanwhile, works included in the “Struggles around Form and Content” section, are influenced by the international political situation in the 1950s to 1960s. The artistic tendencies of both sides of the Cold War were visible in the works of Indonesia artists at this time.

The last section, “Global Soup,” showcases works by contemporary artists. This section includes a specially commissioned artwork by Japanese artist Yukinori Yanagi. Entitled ASEAN +3, the artwork features likenesses of flags of 13 countries (10 ASEAN countries and South Korea, Japan and People's Republic of China). On closer inspection, though, the flags turn out to be ant farms.

With such a wide-ranging collection, coupled with the passions of the public, hopefully Museum Macan will help Indonesia to catch up to Singapore in becoming another power player in the Southeast Asian art scene.

Images c/o Bere Wangge
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