It was one year ago when Museum Macan officially opened its doors in Jakarta, Indonesia, establishing itself as the first ever museum for contemporary art in the country. “Macan” is a short for “Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Archipelago)” but it’s also the Indonesian word for “Tiger.” And what a fitting name it is, as the museum has been experiencing quite a roaring success with two high-profile exhibitions, from its inauguration show Art Turns. World Turns. to Yayoi Kusama’s Life is the Heart of a Rainbow.
“In about 12 months, we’ve had about 350.000 [visitors], not just from Jakarta but from across Indonesia as well as from around the world,“ explains Director Aaron Seeto. Of course, you can’t separate this success from Aaron’s efforts in making Macan’s existence possible in the first place, which is why Globetrotter braved Jakarta’s infamous traffic to sit down with the man himself.
Since the beginning, Macan was built with a mission to educate the people of Indonesia about art, which Aaron reiterated during our conversation. “We’re established to not only present a very important collection of modern and contemporary art, but to ensure a really meaningful opportunity for Indonesian audiences to engage with art appreciation, to learn about art, to be involved in art education. So that’s one of the core missions or the core goals of what we do here,“ Aaron says.
To achieve that, Macan has created an environment that is inclusive, accessible and, of course, educational; besides exhibitions, Macan has also been hosting school visits, talks, workshops and other activities for people of all ages from all walks of life. “Over the last 12 months, we‘ve had nearly 80.000 children and students come into the museum. For a lot of them, it’s their first time engaging with a museum,” Aaron explains. “We have kids from state schools came in and worked with educators to experience the exhibition. And I think the impact is not just immediate… but it will be ongoing in the sense that these young minds will turn into older minds and hopefully they will continue to grow with art and culture.“
A few days before our interview with Aaron took place, Macan opened its one-year-anniversary exhibition, which features works by three conceptual artists: The Past Has Not Passed exhibit by Arahmaiani (Indonesia), Seven Stories project by Lee Ming-wei (Taiwan/USA) and the reading of One Million Years by On Kawara (Japan). To follow up the Instagrammable Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit with conceptual works that are not easy to digest may be a bit risky, but consider it a lesson plan! “This exhibition… really illustrates where we’re heading. When we present Indonesian art, we want to be able to present them alongside their international peers. We want to have that dialogue between what’s going on inside here with the rest of the world. Dialogue is very, very important for us.“
Watch our conversation with Aaron in the video above!