Art scene in Indonesia

Indonesia has a large melange of cultures that has proven to be a hothouse for artists. It has more than 1,700 islands, some 300 languages and a religious mixture of Islam (the country has the largest population of Muslims in the world), Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity.

Historically Indonesia has been a meeting point of cultures and kingdoms with influences from Indian Sanskrit to Arabic, Chinese, Latin and Dutch.

Art has always played a strong role in the country — from historical Balinese carving techniques to the work of expatriate European artists in the 1930s who helped fuel Indonesia’s modernist movement. After independence in 1945, the country’s first president, Sukarno, who admired art, established art schools in Bandung and Yogyakarta, also known as Jogja or Yogya. Under the Suharto regime, from the 1960s to the 1990s, art and political involvement were suppressed. Today, artists enjoy a new freedom to explore politics, sexuality and identity in their art.

Yogya is today one of the most important places of the contemporary art scene in Indoensia. The city has the most impressive number of artists studio in Indonesia.

Not far from Yogya in Magelang, a wonderful collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien opened recently OHD Museum, a private modern and contemporary art museum (see picture). As a well-known art collector, curator, and advisor to The National Art Gallery, Singapore. Dr. Oei Hong Djien started his collections in early 1970s. Currently, with dr. Oei’s collection of more than 2000 artworks, ranging from paintings, sculptures, and installations from different time periods, OHD Museum provides a collection representing the essence of modern and contemporary Indonesian art.  The front piece of the Museum is an impressive large scale installation of the young talented Entang Wiharso, one of the rising star of the indonesian art scene. He will in fact be one of the five artists representing Indonesia at the coming Venice Biennale in June.

The Pavilion will highlight five Indonesian artists examining issues like identity. They  will collaborate on a “magic”-themed exhibition. Indonesian artists have appeared in the biennale before, but this will be the first year that the country will present in its own pavilion. The five artists—Albert Yohan Setiawan, Sri Astari, Eko Nugroho, Entang Wiharso and Titarubi—work across a wide spectrum of media ranging from embroidery to fiberglass, and have primarily exhibited throughout Indonesia and Europe.
Let’s see what the future will make of these talented artists.