Indonesia has been associated with art since it’s human history started, but events in modern history delegitimized many forms of artistic expression. Museum MACAN Jakarta is a long awaited chance to awaken artistic appreciation in Indonesia. A philanthropic gesture by Haryanto Adikoesoemo, chemicals industry billionaire and art collector, started Museum MACAN Jakarta. Through his collection and generosity, the museum has access to around 800 works of national and international significance, and sees its mission as putting Jakarta on the international art map, art education and raising awareness.
Location and orientation
Museum MACAN Jakarta is in a residential and office block in the media district of West Jakarta, next to the offices of Kompas Gramedia and MNC Studios. After my trip to Komodo, I was hoping for a local visit, so I went there on 24th December which was a Sunday. The gallery is easy to find, although the roads next to it are a bit confusing, and it’s easy to miss the entrance.
Once there, take a lift or escalator to the third floor, and the welcome area greets you with a couple of large paintings. There’s a cafe and gift shop as well. The queue was moving fairly quickly, and I waited for about ten minutes to get my tickets. Adult tickets were RP50,000, and Kids were RP30,000.
The gallery mixes international works by contemporary artists like Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, with Indonesian classical and contemporary works by artists like Raden Saleh, Djoko Pekik, and Nyoman Masriadi. There’s a short video with introductions from the co-curators Agung Hujatnika and Charles Escher, and director Aaron Seeto, which is well worth watching to get an idea of the rationale behind the space.
I really enjoyed some of the Indonesian artists, and spent some time looking at a painting of a Java Mail Station, which offered a glimpse into communications of the past. As a young country, the birth of the nation is still in living memory, and I also enjoyed the fantastical painting of Soekarno, surrounded by freedom fighters.
The gallery was quite busy when I visited, and the signs on the ticket desk imploring visitors that art should be appreciated for its own merit seem to go largely unnoticed. For many people, the artists endeavours are less a source of contemplation than a backdrop for selfies, although some people did adopt reflective poses. I took my entire family which on a personal level provided some challenges as I tried to enjoy the art, put a blog post together, and stop my kids from wrecking the place. I’m trying to expose them to art and culture as early as I can, but it’s a real struggle and they weren’t ready to follow the rules. They still expect to be able to touch and play with everything, and barriers mean nothing to them!
There are a number of nudes and other fertility oriented works, which may be controversial to some, but mostly made people snigger. Additionally, there are works with strong messages about freedom, consumerism and political choice, in amongst more abstract and impressionist material.
Art in Indonesia has the ability to sail into dangerous waters. The recent history of the country would have found easy associations with left leaning philosophy, and intelligensia activity can still be risky today.
Many of the young people I talk to have almost no knowledge of global art, with the exception of anime and comics. Similarly, with developed countries, art is seen as a middle class activity and this would exclude wide segments of Indonesian society, so it will be interesting to see what their outreach program achieves.
Museum MACAN Jakarta Overall
It is all at once overdue, challenging, and hopefully successful, without courting the kind of controversy that some exhibitions or galleries might seek in this context. Although the gallery has a lot of work ahead with its education programs, the current exhibition is a starting point for this art space. Jakarta and Indonesia certainly have a great need for spaces like this, both for the development of culture, and to increase the attractions for visitors to the city. This gallery ticks both boxes and is a ‘must visit’ destination for Jakarta visitors. I am optimistic that it will be very successful and I will certainly visit a couple of times a year.
- Gallery: Museum MACAN Jakarta
- Exhibition: Art Turns. World Turns. Exploring the Collection of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara
- Location: AKR Tower Level MM, Jalan Panjang No. 5 Kebon Jeruk, Jakarta Barat 11530
- Visiting Hours: Tuesday-Sunday (Closed every Monday) 10 am – 7 pm
- Instagram instagram.com/museummacan
Have you been to Museum MACAN Jakarta? I’d love to hear what you think about the gallery, or the works, or the artists I mentioned. Comments please! Don’t forget to read my Indonesia travel tips or get a free image if you subscribe!