Art Stage Jakarta is Indonesia's first boutique international art fair celebrating the country's vibrant and diverse contemporary art scene. The fair will present 50 galleries, bringing together the best of contemporary art from across Indonesia under one roof.
As the country's most exclusive art event, Art Stage Jakarta is also supported by the leading Indonesian premium lifestyle and high-society magazine Indonesia Tatler.
In the lead-up to the fair, we will feature a series of interviews with prominent Indonesian art collectors, and the inspiring stories behind their collection. The interviews are conducted by Lorenzo Rudolf, Founder and President of Art Stage Singapore, and are intended to provide an intimate insight into the world of Indonesian art. We hope you have a good read!
LORENZO RUDOLF IN CONVERSATION WITH...CAECIL PAPADIMITRIOU
Caecil Papadimitriou, is the wife of the late Indonesia-based Greek art collector Alex Papadimitriou. Born in Jakarta and married in 1960, she identifies herself as a characteristic Libra, and used to deal in antiques with proceeds going to help artists. Caecil is a member of the Art Stage Jakarta Board of Art Patrons.
LR: The Papadimitriou collection is undoubtedly one, if not the most, eclectic collections of modern and contemporary masters in Indonesia. It is the impressive heritage of a true and passionate collector's life. How did it start?
CP: The Papadimitriou collection is inextricably linked to my husband, Alex. He grew up in Greece, and had been exposed to art and paintings at home, so there was already an innate love for art. He worked at the Indonesian embassy in Brazil in the 1970s where he was responsible for the Indonesian artists invited to the Sao Paolo Biennale: Affandi, Kusnadi, and Solihin. They all became close friends and when Alex returned to Indonesia, his friendships with these artists and many others strengthened. He then became the private secretary to the Brazilian Ambassador here in Indonesia, and influenced the ambassador's passion for Indonesian modern and contemporary art. Whenever they had to travel around Indonesia, Alex would bring him to meet artists. The ambassador became a huge enthusiast and eventual collector of contemporary art.
LR: Your collection is unique because it grew organically through your friendships with artists, which became the basis of your collection. Can you tell me a bit more about these friendships?
CP: Alex was so deeply involved in art and he was always thinking ahead. Many people often wondered how he built up this collection. It was because he worked together with the artists. He was thinking in the same way as the artists and this became his own world. That's why he always supported the artists however he could, either by helping them financially afford paint and canvas, or even by buying more paintings. He spent every free minute with them, visiting them in their studios. Our house was constantly full of artists. It was like a meeting point for them. Alex would remind me to cook more, so that the artists could eat with us. Our table was always open to them.
LR: Beyond an art collector, patron, and friend, was Alex also somewhat of an intellectual and artistic peer to them?
CP: Yes, they often had friendly debates about art and history. For instance, they had a big debate when Cubism became a famous movement in the Bandung school. You could really see many Bandung artists influenced by this Modern movement. They always looked to their discussions with Alex, because coming from Europe, he had some knowledge and experience of the Cubist movement. He became an important sparring partner to them. It was a symbiotic relationship where he shared his knowledge of European art and they taught him about Indonesian history. It was always a cross-cultural exchange between Indonesia and the West, and vice versa.
LR: One of the central artists of your collection, whose work can also be seen in many museums is Affandi. What was the relationship between Alex and Affandi?
CP: They were very close friends, Affandi knew that he could always come to Alex and Alex always supported him. Alex was impressed by Affandi's outstanding talent and did everything possible to allow Affandi to create art...he could not bear to see Affandi sad or disappointed, and would buy additional works from Affandi's studio whenever he was in need of money. Alex frequently visited Affandi's studio in Jogja and he would also come to our home. As their relationship became closer, I got to know his wife who would share stories about Affandi and their daughter. We became like a family.
LR: Alex was not only an art collector, he was also a visionary of his time. It was the 70s when he developed a comprehensive art programme for the Chase Manhattan bank in Indonesia. Today, every bank in the world has an art programme. He started an idea that the rest of the world only caught on to 20 years later. Can you share more about his vision?
CP: When Alex worked with the Chase Manhattan bank, he saw an opportunity to bring them closer to art and the artists. The artsits needed financial support and opportunities to exhibit their work as there were few museums and exhibition spaces then. The bank, on the other hand, had space and a regular flow of human traffic. The bank was proud to exhibit the artworks which clients of the bank could enjoy while waiting. He also made exhibition catalogues and brochures of their work to market the exhibitions, as part of the bank's art programme. This represented his vision. At the end of every exhibition, when nothing was sold, he would buy the whole exhibition just to support them. That's why the collection is so big, he always helped them.
LR: That's why the collection is so personal too - it's like a mirror of the collector.
CP: Yes, it represents the story of our lives, especially Alex's. Every single piece has a personal history, it comes directly from our artist friends, and that's the reason why our collection consists purely of originals.
LR: When you speak about Alex, besides the deep appreciation and love I feel in your words, one really sees his passion. You've looked after this collection and even made something of an archive with this collection, it's truly something unique. What you have here - is it symbolic of the heritage of your love, of your husband, of your life?
CP: That's true. My life is full of art. But even more so because he's not here, I constantly think deeply about how great a man he is, not because he's my husband, but because he dedicated his life so fully to his family and to art. This was our life.
LR: Thank you Caecil.
SEE YOU AT ART STAGE JAKARTA, ASIA'S NEW EXCLUSIVE BOUTIQUE ART FAIR!
Date: 5 to 7 August 2016
Venue: Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City