The Museum MACAN Jakarta opened its doors

On 4 November 2017 – just shy of 2 weeks ago, Jakarta’s hottest new art spot opened its doors for the first time. The Museum MACAN (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara) is a first for Jakarta, and Indonesia as a whole – exhibiting contemporary art from Indonesia and the world over in a space open to the public at reasonable prices.

About the Museum

Museum MACAN is the latest project of the esteemed Haryanto Adikoesoemo and his family. An established businessman, the space in which the museum is built is in the new annex of his corporate complex (Wisma AKR), and the art in their inaugural exhibition (Art Turns, World Turns) comes straight out of his personal collection. Yes, all 800 pieces and counting.

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Adikoesoemo, with a team of experts and enthusiasts at the helm (see: Museum Leadership here), is – through this endeavor, offering Jakartans and local and foreign tourists alike new opportunities for education, inspiration, conservation, and cultural exchange.

As of now, the museum and its events calendar occupy a 4,000 sqm facility in Adikoesoemo’s Wisma AKR in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta. The works currently on display are isolated to the 90 pieces that make up the inaugural “Art Turns. World Turns” exhibit, however, the expectation is that as the event calendar expands, so will the portfolio of art exposed to the public.

About “Art Turns, World Turns”

The opening exhibition is co-curated by Charles Esche (Director of the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands) and Agung Hujatnika (one of the country’s top curators). As aforementioned, it currently features 90 artworks on display from both local and international artists. According to the founders, this exhibit is intended to “explore the resonance between Indonesia and the world”, featuring a “reading of Indonesian art history in dialogue with global art history.”

Some artists featured include Hendra Gunawan, Fernando Amorsolo, Ai Weiwei, Damien Hirst, Mark Rothko, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol (just to name some of its biggest names).

Our Experience

We made the trek from Jakarta Pusat to see Museum MACAN on 11 Nov, Saturday, as one big family – husband, sister, toddler, infant, and myself. We had pre-purchased our tickets online (payment via ATM transfer ONLY) some days before and selected the 4-6pm window. The 2 kiddos cost 20,000 each, and we adults cost 50,000 each – a good deal, I thought.

As we approached Wisma AKR after about 45 minutes in the car already, it became apparent just how in demand an experience like this is in Jakarta. A long stream of cars was on its way into the complex – single-file, creating a bit of traffic on the main road. Once our taxi turned inside, it became clear that it could take another 15 minutes at least to get properly dropped off at the back/new building to access the museum. As such, we elected to alight and walk via the parking lot to get there. The main issue was that cars were streaming into a one-lane entry point, whilst cars were streaming out using that same entry point. We were rather disappointed with the clear lack of planning for proper crowd control but tried not to let this dampen our spirits.

When we finally made it up into the new building and straight to the museum itself, we were met with long lines of people attempting to get tickets, and another long line of pre-purchasers getting scanned in one by one to enter the exhibition area. Again we were slightly surprised that guests were meant to enter single file and despite the crowds only one guard was there to scan each ticket in at a time. That said, the demand and excitement in the room were refreshing to see. Such interest in the arts is a wonderful thing to behold.

Once inside the exhibition one can immediately appreciate the interior architecture of the place – beautiful high ceilings, stark white walls, hanging lamps spotlighting each piece. The exhibition was planned such that plenty of the more colonial Indonesian, Dutch art was the first thing you experienced upon entry, and slowly as you walked through you were greeted with increasingly more recent, regional, and global work.

Though ultimately small, for a first of its kind it did feel rather special. I saw Indonesian friends of mine there experiencing their first Rothko in person, admiring the chiaroscuro of Raden Saleh’s work, and experiencing through art those feelings of insight, inspiration, and ignition felt after the turn of the Suharto era.

Raden-Saleh
Raden Saleh

In a particular section called Global Soup, marked as you turned a corner with a massive globe structure seemingly “sunken” into the floor, the art takes its own turn from colonial and/or Western and/or established/famous/”obvious” to a hodgepodge of local emotion and global influence featuring works that showcase “contemporary generations of artists still active today” with works in response to the post-Suharto emergence of a global art market in Indonesia. Many of the pieces were a first for me, and it was refreshing to see so much local talent intermingled with international talent.

Our Favorites

Some pieces that really called out to us include:

  • Ad Reinhart’s “Abstract Painting” (1960) – one of the pieces in his infamous black series featuring seemingly plain black canvas, which upon closer inspection are all different and evoke different emotions or reactions, especially side by side
  • Raden Saleh’s gorgeous, historical Indonesian landscapes and figurative work featuring people, places, and animals in old Indonesia (1800s)
  • Karel Appel’s abstract Le Visage (1960s), from one of the earlier sections in the exhibition (Struggles Around Form and Content), which explored both figurative and abstract, emotional pieces by mostly Dutch and Indonesian artists
  • Dullah’s evocative, slightly expressionist, slightly realist figurative work on Bung Karno and the Revolution from the 1960s
  • Yukinori Nayagi’s “ASEAN +3” — a set of flags made of sand in plexi cases that double as ant homes and are interconnected by glass tunnels — a commentary on immigration and the fluidity (or not?) of national borders. This particular piece is extra interesting as it is one of a handful of commissioned artworks just for MACAN
  • Side note: One particularly popular piece was Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room, but we declined to enter it due to the insanely long queue. However, photos from friends show that it is quite the experience and worth it for fans of her work who have yet to see the exhibition currently on of her in Singapore
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Mark Rothko
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Yukinori Nayagi’s “ASEAN+3”

For those interested in visiting Museum MACAN, I would certainly recommend it — especially for art enthusiasts or else those who are curious but have not yet had the opportunity to see contemporary art museums in other major cities (like the MOMA, Tate Modern, etc). I suggest buying tickets early and picking lower traffic times. The museum also offers family tours for kids in the mornings. Visit the website at museummacan.org for more details!

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