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MARKER Gives a Glimpse into Contemporary Indonesian Art at Art Dubai 2012

MARKER Gives a Glimpse into Contemporary Indonesian Art at Art Dubai 2012

Last year Art Dubai launched Marker, a curated section of ‘concept stands’ which at once step outside of and interact with the commercial fair setting.  This year Marker presents five leading Indonesian galleries, Ark Galerie (A20), Biasa Artspace (A26), Galeri Canna (A27), D Gallerie (A2) and Jogja Contemporary (A35), curated by Indonesian curator and writer, Alia Swastika. Swastika has already played an important part in Indonesia’s art scene, currently working as co-curator of the Biennale Jogja XI, and well as being a member of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale.

Indonesia’s complex relationships between religions, culture and its colonial past make it a hot bed for creativity, which is in evidence in this year’s Marker section.  Swastika approached the Marker section by looking at artists who embody some of the most interesting forms of cultural production in the country, who have been working with their galleries to make new work for Art Dubai.  ArtintheCity spoke to Swastika more about how she selected the galleries for MARKER and about Indonesia’s contemporary art scene.

ArtintheCity: How did your personal journey in art begin?

Alia Swastika: I started as a writer for an art magazine publishedby a foundation based in Jogjakarta, my hometown. That’s how I built my relationships with artists and curators. I then worked at Cemeti Art House, one of the most prominent art spaces in Indonesia, where I learned about curatorial practice. My educational background is in media, not the arts, so I learned about art through practical experience. Experience is a very important lesson.

AITC: How would you describe your process working with the different galleries for MARKER?

AS: I have been working with the galleries and artists for a few years now and have been following most of them for a long time. So the collaboration is easy, everything is discussed openly, and there is mutual trust. I enjoyed working on this project so much and I am very curious to see how people will react to Marker.

AITC: Can you talk me through the different participating galleries?  Why did you select them and what is their relevance in the Indonesian art scene?

AS: My selection actually started with the artists, and then seeing whether or not they were working with particular gallery in Indonesia. Part of my selection was also based on galleries that I have been working with for a period of time.

In recent years, the development of Indonesian art has been stimulated by the market, making these galleries ‘commercial’. The representation of these commercial galleries is a reflection of how the market influences the Indonesian art scene.

ArkGalerie and D Gallerie focus on new media art and educate collectors to appreciate it more, while Jogja Contemporary and Canna Gallery have been promoting installation works and more conventional works, and offering new perspectives and values in paintings, objects and installations. Biasa Art Space will represent galleries in Bali which have their own interesting characteristics.


AITC: What would you say are some of the key challenges facing artists working in Indonesia today?

AS: Indonesians deal with bureaucracy and governmental policies that are not conducive to the development of contemporary arts. It influences the education system, which does not give a strong base for the artists.

Since political censorship does not exist anymore, it is important for contemporary artists to go beyond the achievements of artists of past generations, and we have to take government support one step further.

AITC: In recent years, there seems to have been an increasing awareness of contemporary Indonesian art in the international art world.  What do you think led to this rise in its global profile? 

There are more and more international collectors and curators visiting Indonesia, and finding the developments of the art scene there interesting, particularly work coming from young emerging artists. Many Indonesian artists have also exhibited their work in prestigious biennales and triennales or international museums around the world, and have caught the attention of international audiences. This rapid development has attracted a large number of curators and collectors to Indonesian art.

AITC: I am interested to learn more about the art infrastructure in Indonesia and the level of input that the government has in Indonesia’s art scene.  Are there any significant national cultural institutions and do the government provide funding to independent cultural initiatives? What needs to happen to allow Indonesia’s art scene to flourish further?

We have a National Gallery in Jakarta where established artists exhibit their works, or where international events are held. However, this gallery does not enjoy a strong curatorial program since it is managed under a governmental system. Every big city also has an Arts Center, but these are also managed by the government, and do not particularly show enthusiasm towards participating in the development of the art scene. The government does not have a funding system dedicated to support contemporary artists - most of the initiatives come from artists or non-governmental organizations supported by foreign funding.

AITC: Following on from my last question, what is the state of the art education system in Indonesia?

There are art universities but these are mostly focusing on 'producing' art or people who work in the creative industry rather than developing a curriculum that brings out students’ creativity and develops strong artists. The teachers haven’t been following the recent developments of contemporary art, so there are gaps between the teachers and the students, since students prefer to gain their knowledge and experiences from independent spaces and art initiatives. These independent and organic educational systems work hard to support young artists and help them expand their horizon and knowledge.

AITC: Is there a strong local market for contemporary Indonesian art?

AS: The market in Indonesia is very strong, possibly the strongest in South East Asia. Much of Indonesian contemporary art also plays a larger role in the Asian art market. Younger collectors show significant growth in numbers and also in the diversity of their collections. This is a very interesting development.

The MARKER booths can be found at Hall A at Art Dubai, which continues till 24 March, 2012.

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