Hubert Burda Media

Aaron Seeto Talks Museum MACAN’s Vision

What to expect from the opening of “Indonesia’s first international museum of modern and contemporary art”

It’s one of the most important new-gallery openings worldwide in 2017 and it’s happening in Jakarta. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Museum Macan), scheduled to open its doors in November, is the brainchild of Haryanto Adikoesoemo, President of AKR Corporindo, a major chemical and energy logistics company and luxury property developer.

As well as being a highly successful entrepreneur, Adikoesoemo is an art lover. His private collection includes prominent Indonesian artists such as Raden Saleh, S. Sudjojono, Affandi, Lee Man Fong, Heri Dono, FX Harsono, Agus Suwage, Christine Ay Tjoe and Masriadi. He also owns artworks by renowned modern artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ed Ruscha, as well as international contemporary artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Tracey Emin, Liu Je, Yayoi Kusama and Jeff Koons. Adikoesoemo is a trustee of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, whose mission is to enhance public appreciation of contemporary art.

Adikoesoemo describes his initiative in Jakarta as “the country’s first museum dedicated to international modern and contemporary art”. Located in a multipurpose landmark building in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, the new 4,000 sq m space “will provide the community with access to an important and internationally focused collection, a wide variety of public programmes, and frequent temporary exhibitions to foster interdisciplinary education and support cultural and artistic exchange”.

Dullah – Bung Karno di Tengah Perang Revolusi

Why Jakarta, and why now? “Jakarta is one of the most dynamic artistic centres in the world,” Adikoesoemo has explained, “and Indonesia has long been home to countless talented and experimental artists working in all genres. I am delighted to be able to provide the public with the kind of high-calibre arts institution that Indonesia deserves, and to support and expand the existing creative industries and diverse artistic communities. Museum Macan aims to fill a void in Indonesia, and is committed to exchanges with other museums, and to strengthening the network of cultural institutions and artists in the area that are creating an increasingly vibrant and supportive environment for the arts and culture across Southeast Asia and beyond.

“Twenty-five years ago, guided by my passion for art and a desire to support Indonesian artists, I began collecting Indonesian modern and contemporary artworks. Gradually, as I learned more and my interests grew, I expanded my focus internationally, and I am now so excited to share this collection with the public for the first time. It is thrilling to work with Museum Macan’s team of professionals who are curating the collection to illuminate existing historical narratives, and whose research will help to provide visitors with a truly enriching experience when the exhibition opens in our new museum in November.”

Museum Macan, according to Adikoesoemo, will join the rapidly expanding art scene in Jakarta, home to the Jakarta Biennale and several other museums, publicly and privately owned gallery initiatives, independent art spaces, and artist communities and collectives. The museum will further connect to other cultural hubs across Indonesia, including Yogyakarta, Bandung, and Bali, and newly emerging centres such as Makassar in South Sulawesi, and Medan in Sumatra.

Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Mirrored Room – Brilliance of the Soul

What makes Museum Macan one of the art world’s most important developments in 2017? “Southeast Asia is a significant growth area for the world, and Indonesia is an important centre for the arts in the region,” Melissa Chiu, Director of the Hirshhorn Museum, has pointed out. “The creation of a museum of this stature is extremely exciting, and will open up new opportunities for international exchanges with Indonesia. The private collecting milieu in Jakarta is very well developed, but more often than not the focus is on Indonesian contemporary art. Haryanto is unusual in that he has been collecting international art alongside Indonesian art for years, so this is really the next step for him. It’s a bold move.”

Some of the world’s leading newspapers and media outlets have written glowingly about Museum Macan. The Guardian includes the project among its “Top 10 new museum openings in 2017”, noting: “With spacious interiors designed by London-based MET Studio Design, the museum will feature works from the collection of Indonesian philanthropist  Haryanto Adikoesoemo, who says he has dreamed of creating a museum for the people of Indonesia for over a decade.” CNN Style has described it as “one of 2017’s most anticipated openings”.

According to The New York Times: “In creating exhibitions and programming for the museum, Mr. (Thomas) Berghuis (the former Director) and his team will have access to Mr. Adikoesoemo’s collection of about 800 works of modern and contemporary art. The collection, built over 25 years, is about 40 percent art from Indonesia, 35 percent art from the United States and Western Europe, and 25 percent art from the greater Asian region.”

A former Guggenheim Curator, Berghuis abruptly left the Museum Macan project last October. His successor, Aaron Seeto, became Director in November. An Australian, Seeto has more than 15 years of experience curating exhibitions of artists from the Asia Pacific region. He holds a Creative Arts degree from Wollongong University. He previously worked as the head of Asian and Pacific Art at the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. He was also formerly the Director of Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum Macan

“The museum will support interdisciplinary education and cultural exchanges and it will offer both a wide variety of public programmes, and a dynamic exhibition program,” says Seeto in an exclusive interview with Prestige. “As part of its mission, the museum will be an important platform for local and international artists to present their work to a global audience and will commission new works by artists that broaden perspectives on contemporary art in and beyond Indonesia. It will also offer professional development opportunities for artists, curators, and other arts-focused young professionals to help build upon the energy of Indonesia’s vibrant arts ecology.

“The museum has about 2,000 sq metres of exhibition space. There will be a café and a book shop. And the architectural design is quite distinctive. I don’t think people will really understand the scale of it until they walk inside. It’s quite big, but it also has the capacity to be quite intimate as well. Visitors will encounter public programmes, there will be ways for people to be able to learn things. Since we will have a focus on education, there may be something with kids in there as well. They will encounter a collection which is growing and it is very important. They might find artworks that they have read about, but never necessarily seen before.”

“I believe that art is for everyone. Art is the thing that allows us to communicate. We can communicate across time with art and I think it is very important for audiences from all different backgrounds to be able to engage with art. So, when you go to a museum that might have historical pieces, we can understand something that may have been occurred centuries ago or even thousands of years ago. I believe that artists play a very important role in our society because they often tell us things that we don’t want to hear.

“Besides our exhibition programme, we have an education programme, too. Education is a very important for the museum. Our education team have been going out to schools in Jakarta, and talking to teachers and students about art. And this is important, this museum is the first of its kind in Indonesia and we want to make sure that it is useful. So, we want teachers and students to come in, we want them to use this as a really important resource.

“The other thing is, we will also have our conservation programme. In a climate like Indonesia, how do we make sure the art collection could be preserved for 100 years in the future? How could we preserve it so our children’s children can appreciate this art? So this is something important that we have to deal with.

“I want people from all around the world and also our friends in the art world to come regularly to Jakarta to learn about the art of Indonesia. So, I want this museum and the art in Indonesia to have continued global connection. I want a conversation and dialogues to go from inside out and outside in. And I think if that happens, we will have been successful because it means that not only will the museum be creating interesting programmes, but there will be a very different conversation that is happening throughout the art scene.”