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Art Jakarta expands but keeps its Asian focus


By Joseph L. Garcia Senior Reporter

WITH ABOUT 10,000 sq.m. of space in Art Jakarta’s new home at JI Expo Kemayoran, it was simply appropriate that they brought out the big guns for the show.

One of the exhibits at Art Jakarta, held last week from Nov. 17 to 19, was “Memory Mirror Palace.” Containing 178 transparent cabinets bearing various objects, it was, literally, big.

The top of the exhibit was etched with a statement and an invitation to go on to another cabinet (sort of like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book). One could spend all day in this particular installation, going through a first cabinet as a question and reading the answer in another cabinet, going ad infinitum and finding one’s self in the process. For example, this reporter was drawn to a cabinet bearing an antique hand mirror that said, “Reciting the prettiest thoughts.” This cabinet instructed one to go to Cabinet No. 125 (which, oddly enough, either did not exist or was well-hidden). The answer on the chart that guides one through the exhibit said, “Perhaps I myself was the object of my search.” Another cabinet contained an hourglass and said, “Knowing that time will end in a labyrinth. A deep saturated maze.” That cabinet instructed us to go to No. 140, which read: “Withdraw.” A second option told us to go to another number, which said, “The object now seems an image of profound melancholy.”

The large scale of the installation was justified by its first outing at Indonesia’s pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. It was set up anew at Art Jakarta.

This year the fair attracted 68 exhibitors, including 28 overseas galleries (two are from the Philippines), and 40 from Indonesia, said Tom Tandio, Fair Director of Art Jakarta. “Art Jakarta moved to this new venue in order to allow the fair to grow and offer our exhibitors and visitors a better environment to present and enjoy the latest and best in contemporary art,” said Mr. Tandio in a speech.

Art Jakarta started in 2009 as Bazzar Art Jakarta, and was usually held at the Jakarta Convention Center. “Together, we strive to further other artists and creative minds as a platform: to present their latest work and to underline Indonesia’s growing importance in the regional and international art scene,” said Mr. Tandio in his speech.

“There’s a lot of other bigger fairs,” he admitted to BusinessWorld later, citing Singapore’s Art SG as an example. But, he pointed out, “They’re very international. Whereas with Art Jakarta, we are Asia-focused. We have all the Southeast Asian galleries, and also Japan, Korean, and things like that.”

While Mr. Tandio declined to give sales figures (“We don’t see a fair in terms of generating how much money or whatever”), he was happy to tell us about visitor numbers. “Last year, we had 32,000 in the audience, so we’re hoping that this year, we will have maybe 40,000.”

Art Jakarta is owned by PT Mugi Rekso Abadi (MRA), an Indonesian holding company that counts among its interests radio stations, the Indonesian franchise for Hard Rock Cafe, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Bulgari, and the magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. Various corporate partners were seen at the event, such as a gold trading app with an installation showing gold coins, and LED screens showing the jumping price of gold.

“I cannot stress enough how important the cooperation is between our partners on one hand, and many artists on the other hand,” said Mr. Tandio in his speech. “This is a true manifestation: art can make a very important impact, and strong support for corporations.”

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