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Art Jakarta 2022: First Indonesian fair reinvigorates art scene in Southeast Asia

If the Asian visual arts scene has been experiencing a prolonged winter for two years, the winds of change seem to herald change.

The famous international art fair Frieze recently made its debut in Seoul. It was held at the same time as the KIAF (Korean International Art Fair), thus reinforcing the city’s footprint as a destination for contemporary art.

Closer to home, next January will see the introduction of Art SG, hailed as “the most anticipated art fair launch of 2023”. Delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the new event at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center is set to dethrone Art Basel Hong Kong as the leader of its kind in the region.

Then there’s long-running Art Jakarta, which saw a promising rebrand in 2019 when it moved to the Jakarta Convention Center under prominent collector and founder of the IndoArtNow online art archive, Tom Tando.

After an enforced break that halted momentum, the return of Indonesia’s premier art event from August 25-27 has sparked anticipation and excitement in all of us. After all, the Art Jakarta experience was fun and unique for its extraordinary local spirit of celebration and support for the art scene. Galleries, collectors of all sizes, artists, and just about every other member of the fraternity got together and did their best. A friend described it as the gotong royong spirit that those of us in the Southeast Asian region are familiar with.

Although returning to Jakarta this year has been a tentative start – given that many of us have not left the country for art-related events in the past two and a half years – any hesitation was quickly put aside as there was so much to see and do.

“We actually took up a bigger space,” says Tom when he manages to stop for a brief chat. Occupying over 8,000m², up from over 6,000m² in 2019, the larger space allowed for larger Biennale-style installations and more booth space per gallery, although attendance is slightly lower with 62 galleries local and international, compared with 70 in the previous edition.

The fair director was in good spirits, no doubt relieved after a good opening day, even though the physical exhaustion of running around to make sure patrons, collectors, guests, galleries and artists would have access to him was beginning. to settle down. wasn’t likely to take anything for granted.

“We canceled the event scheduled for 2020 when the closures started and launched something called Art Jakarta Virtual – a four-month online exhibition. We had a number of visitors online, probably because everyone was locked up at home and still wanted a way to see or buy art,” says Tom.

Last year, the team came up with Art Jakarta Gardens, a kind of outdoor pop-up event that was postponed to April this year. “It was very successful. People always wanted to have only outdoor activities, so we put two tents in a garden with lots of sculptures outside. Twenty galleries participated, mostly local with the exception of A+ Works of Art from Malaysia. Sales have been so good that they are now asking us to repeat the experience next year. So we will.

Tom says the teaser event has helped local galleries find the confidence to return. It was a stark contrast to the previous two years, he notes. “I think it was quieter here for our art scene compared to Malaysia, as galleries were considered entertainment in Indonesia, and therefore banned. Of course, that meant artists couldn’t make a living.

Walking around Art Jakarta and seeing the crowds again is a hopeful sight, one of the best days to come. Yet, has the pandemic brought about any key changes? That was the main question for me. Here are the three main takeaways from the 2022 edition.

A new young audience

South Korean popular culture has coined the term “MZers”, meaning millennials and young adults of Gen Z. There have been signs that the Covid-19 era has intensified the emergence of this new collector base, hard to miss in Art Jakarta, where there were fewer people dressed in formal batik attire and fewer well-heeled elegants. tai-tai being seen. There were a lot more people in jeans and untucked shirts, colorful and edgy fashion and a decidedly more laid-back vibe.

Malaysian artist Justin Lim, who was on hand to present two landmark works by Richard Koh Fine Art, describes something of a “little generational leap” over the past two years, both in terms of art seekers and designers. artists. “I think it’s a post-pandemic effect, where maybe there’s a lot of pent up feelings, or the need for people to want to see new things, new art.”

Syed Jamal Al-Idrus, owner and director of Kuala Lumpur-based Artemis Art, agrees that collector demographics are changing globally. “It’s not yet so evident in Malaysia, but from what we saw at Volta Basel in June – which Artemis attended for the first time – the average age of those coming to the fair was lower than before.”

Tom points out that the galleries reported more new buyers, many of whom are younger. He attributes this in part to the rise of cryptocurrencies, which has created a new pool of art lovers.

Colorful works

As a result, the artwork seen this year also reflected a move towards a stronger representation of younger and emerging artists compared to the majority of established veterans or modern masters of the previous edition.

With that came more urban, street, pop and digital art inspirations. Among the Malaysian galleries present, Artemis Art seems to have fully embraced this trajectory. With a mix of artists: Syahbandi Samat and Leik Lim from Malaysia; Dedy Sufriadi, Oky Antonius and Taufik Ermas from Indonesia; and Chang Chiung-Fang from Taiwan, the curated works clearly had a younger, contemporary vibe.

“Yeah, it’s deliberate,” Jamal says. “Because that’s what’s getting a lot of attention in the art world today, and the visitors to the fair have also responded well to that direction.”

From an artist’s point of view, Lim says that the artistic orientation of those of his generation, whether it’s Millennials or Gen Z, will inevitably revolve around the issues that mark that era, especially those surrounding social anxiety, identity and mental health.

One such work was by fellow RKFA artist, Joshua Kane Gomes (b. 1993), who featured three works of steel and fabric sculpture named Parasocial I, Parasocial II and Parasocial III. Born from his daydreams and reflections during times of pandemic isolation, the characters – inspired by a cannibalistic Wendigo spirit – nevertheless contrast the evil inspiration with pastel colors and animated expressions reminiscent of one of Hayao Miyazaki’s characters. .

Perhaps this juxtaposition and tension is something we can all relate to in some way post-pandemic, after going through the ups and downs of uncertainty and lockdowns, as the Escape aspirations coexisted with concerns about safety and security, in an era that has spawned digital hyper-connectivity and, at the same time, total isolation.

Lim’s suburban garden paintings, inspired by his Petaling Jaya home, were a way to escape the boredom and loneliness of sweltering lockdowns and an impending melancholy. Incidentally, the two paintings in the series entitled Sanctuary are super colorful.

“Maybe it’s just me, but I find that the younger generation – we’ve learned to be optimistic in dark times. And so the brightness is in direct contrast to the gloom I feel in the world. C “It’s the opposite effect. I want to inject color into this world,” he says.

Malaysian Art Jakarta collectors have particularly found the cool energy stimulating. Leonard Tee, filmmaker and co-owner of Warong Old China and Old China Café, says local support for young artists has been admirable. “We were invited to tour the company’s offices and homes, and you could see a diverse range of artwork proudly displayed. Indonesians really have a better sense of appreciating art, not just as an investment, but as something to enjoy, as if they had a [intrinsic] understanding of the value of art itself.

The boom of NFT

Arguably the most significant change in the art world over the past two years has been the explosion of the market for non-fungible tokens. Crypto assets that take advantage of blockchain technology, these have revolutionized the art world as NFT art rises to prominence.

Some see this digital disruption as a threat. One of the standout works in Jakarta was the installation by Jogja-based Justin Jafin, which took up an entire booth. Title Estetika Sintetikit mimics NFT images outside in a wall of repetitive paintings, like a commentary from an artist tired of struggling with a future that may not have room for someone like him.

Justian’s concerns aside, Art Jakarta 2022 ensured that NFT art was given its rightful place at the fair. In fact, one of the first booths we saw was Cohart, a Los Angeles-based art platform NFT, which featured Kuala Lumpur-based Texan artist NFT Frenemy and his series of physical prints , each of which is also associated with an NFT work. .

Cohart co-founder Shyevin S’ng notes that NFT may have a complementary place in the world of physical art. For one thing, the NFT that accompanies each of Frenemy’s printed works serves as a receipt or digital authentication of ownership and legitimacy.

In a dedicated workshop where viewers could watch the entire process of creating an NFT in real life over three days, Indonesian art collective The Monday Art Club pointed out that the exercise was another way for people to discover and learn more about NFT art.

Tom, an avid supporter and collector of NFT art himself, says, “At Art Jakarta, we have always viewed NFT as another art medium, not just a monetary distribution. There’s a lot of things it can do that other art mediums can’t, like the smart contract, which has a lot of possibilities.

Ultimately, it’s also about the value of community, which is growing incredibly fast in the NFT world. “The scene as a whole in Indonesia is big enough already, and there are a lot of artists getting into it – including those who traditionally aren’t great artists, but now have a platform to shine. We strongly believe in the potential of NFTs.

Looking ahead, the director reveals that by staying in its lane and focusing on championing the growth of Indonesian art and its market, Art Jakarta can contribute to the development of the South Asian art scene -East. “And as the wider Asian market continues to strengthen, it will contribute to our continued development and facilitate trade more easily through regional and even global connections.”

This article was first published on September 19, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.