A major modern art museum opens its doors in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 4 November, to engage the city and promote its burgeoning art sector.
The passion project of Indonesian business tycoon, philanthropist and collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo, the multi-million-dollar Museum MACAN – which stands for Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, and is also the Indonesian word for tiger – will house 800 works of modern and contemporary art.
We asked museum director Aaron Seeto about the project.
How is your previous career experience helping you in your role at the new museum?
There are two major roles that I held before coming to MACAN last year which have informed my experience: director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia, and curatorial manager of Asian and Pacific Art at QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art) in Brisbane. I mention the two to illustrate a versatility. One was a small nonprofit that directly connected with artists and communities; the other was a large state collection with one of the most significant collections of contemporary Asian and Pacific art and the host of the Asia Pacific Triennial.
These experiences have given me a sensitivity to the important role that programming plays when engaging with different communities. What I bring to Museum MACAN from these experiences is a broad and global view of how important Indonesia and this region is to the world art scene.
Why is the role important to you?
The museum’s mission to provide an international platform for the art of our region, its commitment to education and to creating public accessible art really resonates with me. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of it.
Can you describe the location?
The Kebon Jeruk neighbourhood in West Jakarta is up and coming, with many interesting new restaurants, cafés and other community spaces, but most importantly, it is the area of Jakarta with the highest concentration of schools. Our location grants students access to the educational resources of a museum, which is an integral part of MACAN’s overall commitment to education and accessibility.
What can MACAN bring to the area?
As mentioned, one of the museum’s core missions is education and our location is close to many schools. MACAN hosts school visits with dedicated tours for children, as well as boasting a Children’s Art Space. Its first site-specific commission is with the leading Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso.
The museum aims to provide public access to a significant collection of modern and contemporary art and currently houses over 800 artworks. Besides temporary exhibitions, the museum also holds regular art events to further encourage interaction between the art and the public.
What else comprises MACAN’s mission?
There is an increased curatorial attention on Indonesia and Southeast Asia from our colleagues around the world. We hope the museum will help to facilitate knowledge and interest in the region with opportunities for reciprocal cultural exchange.
What different areas are in the gallery?
The new building offers approximately 4,000 square metres (43,000 square feet) of space. The museum features about 2,000 square metres (21,528 square feet) of exhibition galleries, which include two areas specially reinforced for large-scale commissions of new work. Besides, there is the Children’s Art Space, featuring interactive and educative commissions designed specifically for children. The museum also has a 500-square-metre (5,382 square foot) indoor sculpture garden, a designated education zone, AV room, café/restaurant and retail store.
How does the design by MET Studio represent Museum MACAN?
MET Studio has over 30 years of experience in planning, designing and delivering museums and other projects across 50 countries, with a focus on creating environments that connect directly to their audience. Their vision for Museum MACAN responds to the cultural landscape of Jakarta and Indonesia and reflects our mission to create an engaging and open educational experience with art for visitors.
What is the visitor journey like?
The museum has been designed to present exhibitions, but also to encourage social interaction with a café, shop and other public spaces. We hope that our visitors see the museum as a place to experience new ideas told through the history of art. We have trained visitor services staff to guide first-time visitors in the museum, and provide a platform to encourage questions and experiences for those new to art. Both one-time admission tickets and membership programs will be available, with details on the website.
In our inaugural exhibition – Art Turns. World Turns. Exploring the Collection of Museum MACAN – approximately 90 century-defining works are on display. The spacious exhibition rooms encourage visitors to take time to reflect on the works.
What is on display and what type of works make up the permanent collection?
Art Turns. World Turns. is a snapshot of 90 artworks from our growing permanent collection. This selection, which sees Indonesia as its foundation, branches off into conversations that draw in artists from around the world. As curators Charles Esche and Agung Hujatnika remark, the strategy has been to explore the resonances between national discourses as they emerge in Indonesia and global connectedness as it has been experienced since the late 20th century.
Almost half of the collection is devoted to modern and contemporary work by Indonesian artists, including Raden Saleh, S. Sudjojono, Affandi, Lee Man Fong, Heri Dono, FX Harsono, Agus Suwage, Christine Ay Tjoe and Handiwirman Saputra.
In addition to a focus on Indonesia, the collection includes modern and contemporary work from across the greater Asian region, and around the world. This includes key regional artists Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, Sanyu, Yang Maolin and Wu Guanzhong; and renowned international artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter, Banksy, Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Frank Stella, Antoni Tapies, to name a few.
How have the works been acquired?
The collection has been developed by our founder, Haryanto Adikoesoemo, since the 1990s and is continuously growing through acquisitions and commissions. We believe it’s important to show formative works that are crucial to Indonesian societal history.
How many visitors do you expect?
We can’t precisely gauge our annual visitation, but we’ve been very happy with the constant media coverage and buzz throughout the months before the opening, especially after the two First Sight preview events held in August and September. And to cater to both local and international visitors, all our guides are presented in both Bahasa Indonesia and English.
How are you using technology?
While education is a defining mission of the museum, we are focusing on human interactions to guide visitors when visiting the exhibitions and events. We have a comprehensive range of guides, including one dedicated for children, to help put the exhibitions and events into context.
What was the budget of the museum?
We’re not currently sharing details about the budget for the new museum. The design and construction of our new museum building has been fully funded. The museum will be seeking additional support for MACAN’s operations, programming and endowment to ensure the museum’s stability and growth into the future.
What is the status of Indonesia’s contemporary art scene?
When we look at the history of art in Indonesia, the relationship between artist studio, critical discourse and marketplace have been intertwined. What our inaugural exhibition – Art Turns. World Turns. – illustrates is the important role that artistic discourse has had alongside the political, especially during the struggles for independence in the mid-20th century, which establishes so much of the subsequent art history dialogue. Now, however, the current external observation of the Indonesian scene is probably skewed towards the marketplace – Indonesia has gone through an impressive boom. Artists and collectors are highly visible.
Having said all this, even though Indonesia has great artists and collectors and a strong scene, it has lacked infrastructure and this is where we see Museum MACAN playing an important role.
How will MACAN champion the country’s artists?
Museum MACAN is an international museum, which has its base in Indonesia, representing the best of global and national artists. We are keen to support Indonesian artists through collecting their work, creating exhibitions, and also through providing discussions and context for them to see their activities within broader international conversations.
The museum will also publish, commission and share information through our international networks. This is an important responsibility that the museum wants to take up, with the support of the greater art ecosystem here, to further encourage artists’ conceptual development from when they are young to when they are established, and to assist in expanding artists’ peer networks through connections with other artists around the globe.
Why was it important to include international artists?
The importance is reflected in Art Turns. World Turns. The exhibition explores 178 years of dialogue between Indonesia and the rest of the world. As co-curator Charles Esche says: “Audiences can discover both common interests and individual ideas by artists who have made a strong and lasting impact on the history of art and culture over the decades.”
We also live in a world where our conversations and interactions are global – including international artists as a reflection of our international outlook.
How do you imagine developing the museum going into the future?
With our main programmes to promote art education and foster long-term exchanges with the international art world, we hope to develop appreciation for art in Indonesia, provide a platform for Indonesian art in the international level, as well as growing a professional environment and human resources for art in Indonesia.