Hubert Burda Media

The New Face of ArtJog

Indonesia’s art maestro Djoko Pekik set top price at the country's biggest art fair.

ArtJog 9

Artjog was different this year. Besides moving from its regular spot at Taman Budaya to Jogja National Museum, it was an invitation-only events for participants. It means artists could not register to join, unlike previous years.

This year, ArtJog featured 97 artworks from 72 artists. Homegrown artists dominated the line-up, with a few overseas participants, including from Japan and Australia. Prestige was one of the media partners of the event.

Entering Jogja National Museum, visitors were welcomed with a jet machine connected to a white canvas tunnel. The tunnel bent and ended on a wall, to then showed up at the back of the building. Similar to earlier efforts, ArtJog appointed an artist to create an installation that acted as a focal point at the venue. This time, the installation was relocated to the backyard. It was shaped as a 36-meter tall tower. A flying saucer was at its peak, while a signal satellite was at its bottom. The artwork, titled Indonesia Space Science Society (ISSS), invited visitors to imagine a life beyond earth. “This genre is called astronomical art,” explains Venzha Christiawan, the creator.

Universal Influence

ArtJog 9

Djoko Pekik's Sirkus Adu Badak was the most expensive artwork at ArtJog 9

In its ninth edition, ArtJog went with Universal Influence as its theme. The loose theme, according to curator Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono, was meant to demonstrate how art is crucial to civilization, and vice versa.

The decision to move the venue was also influenced by the historical value behind the theme. Jogja National Museum was once Indonesian Fine Art Academy (ASRI), the oldest art school in the country. Since its officiation in 1950, ASRI was the institution where the most prolific local artists were educated. The tradition continued even after it was renamed as Indonesian Art Institute (ISI). “We can’t talk about art history in Indonesia without mentioning ASRI,” explained Bambang Toko.

However, holding an art fair in such a historic place has its challenges. The committee had to be extremely careful not to alter the façade of the building. At Taman Budaya, the committee could freely destroy a wall or repaint it. Now they had to be gentle and use the space as is. The result was a neater layout of the art fair and a calmer overall atmosphere.

The Topdogs and the Underdogs

ArtJog 9

As expected, ArtJog 2016 features big names in Indonesian contemporary art scene, including Agus Suwage, Eko Nugroho, Nasirun, Entang Wiharso and Ugo Untoro. Besides them, a few “celebrities” like photographer Davy Linggar and director Garin Nugroho participated. Davy showcased a series of arty photos that have in time become his trademark, while Garin presented a tribute to Salvador Dali and Georges Méliès.

Those prolific figures were a magnet that regularly attracted international collectors to Art Jog. Hence, the amount of transactions made in ArtJog is the barometer of local art industry. According to the committee, the most expensive artwork of the year is Sirkus Adu Badak by maestro Djoko Pekik. Its official price is yet to be published, but the committee admitted that it was not far from Nyoman Masriadi’s that made 4.5 billion rupiahs (almost 35 thousand dollars) last year.

Established artists appeared to stay within their comfort zones. FX Harsono, for instance, criticized racial discrimination against the Chinese in Indonesia through sepia photos and old immigration cards. Another example was Pintor Sirait, who displayed his signature F1 car, an installation that had long resided a hotel lobby in Kuta, Bali.

Pleasant surprises actually came from the underdogs. Dhanank Pambayun was one. He created an evocative installation that shaped like a wall ornament and looked like a Gothic artwork. In it were a collage of mosque domes, parts of a machine, distorted faces with fangs and hands that attempted to break through a hole in search for the light. In its annotation, the artist quoted the words of sufi Rabi’ah Al Adawiyah: “My love for God does not leave room for hatred of demons.”

Another intriguing artwork came from Abdi Setiawan, who cleverly interpreted Mooi Indie into a sculpture. Hailing from Jogja, he transformed a table and a chair into a canvas for a panoramic painting depicting East Hindi, but this time in 3D. Arya Pandjalu, although he lacked of a strong agenda, was touching in his sentimental presentation. It was a dark room with a figure inside it, patiently waiting for a plant to grow out of a wooden table. The work felt explosive in its modest composition.

Art, a Social Critic

ArtJog 9

Arya Pandjalu presented a modest yet emotional artwork

A few other senior artists attempted to explore trendy phenomena. They were the ones who made sure that ArtJog always felt current. Indieguerillas delved into how information overload triggered shallow ways of thinking. Another memorable artwork from this category was How Low Can You Go by Mella Jaarsma. The enigmatic artwork involved six men in white robes that slowly span a pulley connected to wooden totems. It represented Mella’s grief on the destruction of traditional values and local myths by religious institutions. Displayed right behind the main entrance, the artwork served like an appetizer with strong tastes.

Unlike last year, kinetic artworks were scarce. Such was also the case for installations that involved visitor participation. One of the few artworks that were “entertaining” belonged to renowned artist Heri Dono. His was a horse carriage that was run by a machine. By stepping on the pedal, visitors could see a pair of angels moving inside the carriage.

Heri Dono tried to translate ArtJog’s theme literally, which was the two-way influencing process between art and civilization. “Horse power is a unit of a machine,” he said. “and this time I want to show a machine-run horse carriage.” Hidden at the back of Jogja National Museum, Heri Dono’s installation served like a crunchy dessert for visitors.

ArtJog ran from May 27 – June 27. To know more about the annual event, visit