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...MELANI SETIAWAN
Melani Setiawan, 70, is a doctor in the medical profession and one of Indonesia's leading art collectors. Regarded by many young Indonesian artists as a veritable mother figure, she considers art the balance in her life, and is currently working on a book that archives the developmment of the Indonesian art world for almost forty years. Melani is a member of the Art Stage Jakarta Board of Art Patrons.
LR: Melani, I've known you for a long time and your passion for art speaks for itself. How did you first enter the art world?
MS: It was many years ago in the late seventies, I was working in the hospital with my uncle, and he collected art and Chinese antique ceramics. I think he was one of the prominent collectors of Chinese ceramics in Indonesia then. During our free time, we would go to art shops or flea markets as there were no galleries in those days. That's how I first started with art.
LR: You're extremely involved in the contemporary art scene, what attracted you to it?
MS: I didn't really think of it as contemporary art, strictly speaking. There were no categorical limitations to what I was intensely drawn to, it was all Indonesian art to me.
LR: I saw your exhibition at the Indonesia National Gallery, as well as your book - no one in Indonesia has produced such a comprehensive anthropological overview of the Indonesian art scene. Can you share a little bit about your art archive?
MS: My art archive really stems from a habit of nature. I archive every part of my life, from my childhood photographs to my medical documents. I've spent a lot of time on art in the past 40 years and counting.
LR: There are many collectors here in Indonesia, but there's no one who's always fighting for the artists, who stands on their side the way you do. Some of them even see you as a mother figure, where most collectors tend to keep a certain distance. Tell me more.
MS: I go with the flow, and everything just flowed naturally. I never really had a plan or any intentions, it all just developed organically. I enjoyed nurturing relationships with the artists, and my collection was a manifestation of that.
LR: You have close relationships with many Indonesian artists, do you have favourites? Is the consideration personal or based on artistic merit?
MS: My philosophy to life has always been about relationships. It was never purely about the artwork, the people are more important to me: the human being, the personality. It's something like friendship, having this mutual understanding, being able to talk easily and connect emotionally with each other.
LR: You are strongly committed to supporting Indonesian art, but you also travel extensively around the world to attend international art events. What do you think sets Indonesian art apart?
MS: Again, it's the personal relationships. When I travel for special events like art fairs, it's always more of a draw when there are Indonesian artists. I will make an effort to be there to support them.
LR: Based on your impressively thorough and extensive knowledge of the Indonesian art scene, if I'm a foreign collector looking to make his first foray into Indonesian art, who should I look out for and collect?
MS: I wouldn't specify a particular direction, because it really depends. There's a lot of information out there that you can easily read. You'll find a number of Indonesian artists that are doing well in terms of market - you don't need to ask me for that. But if you are really asking me personally, I would show and not tell. I would take you to Jogjakarta and Bandung, and introduce you to the art scenes there.
They are cities that house Indonesia's best art schools, the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Jogjakarta and Bandung Institute of Technology, with truly vibrant art communities that are unlike what you see in other countries - the artists all work together and support each other. You can meet the artists, visit their studios, and have a look at their work. After that experience, we can talk about what you saw and liked, and find out more about your impressions of Indonesian art, what kind of Indonesian artworks you are looking for, whether its Modern, contemporary, et cetera. And then we will go from there.
LR: Thank you.
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