Jakarta Globe | Insight

New Museum Fosters Inclusivity and Art Education

Jakarta. When the new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts in Nusantara, or MACAN, opened its inaugural exhibition on Nov. 4, it became known that founder Haryanto Adikoesoemo has the taste and money for works by important artists of our time.

Paintings by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Mark Rothko are being displayed alongside masterpieces by Indonesian painters like Raden Saleh, S. Sudjojono and Hendra Gunawan. Together, curators Charles Esche and Agung Hujatnikap provide a historical context on how political turmoil and international art movements have impacted the Indonesian art scene.

For many of its young, Instagram-fluent visitors, the museum is the only place in Jakarta where art-enthusiasts can experience the famous “Infinity Room” by Yayoi Kusama. The mirrored installation is so popular that Museum MACAN applies a specific rule to end the queue for the piece an hour before the museum’s official closing time. The museum also presented numerous art performances during two previews held prior to the November opening.

Iconic artists and commissioned works aside, lesser known to the public is the museum’s real mission of encouraging art education in Indonesia.

Museum MACAN starts small. It currently rents just one floor in the newly-built AKR Tower building on Jalan Panjang, West Jakarta. Aside from its months-long exhibition and weekly artist talks, the foundation is also doing the legwork in establishing relationships with stakeholders and educational institutions.

Fenessa Adikoesoemo, chairwoman of the Museum MACAN Foundation, said the organization was first established as a platform to support art education in the country. Museum MACAN is a means for the foundation to achieve its mission and implement its vision, which is to promote art appreciation, create cross-cultural ties between Indonesian and foreign artists and to grow art-related studies.

“We are striving to be an independent foundation and to not rely on my father and AKR [Corporindo] as a whole, but to really get everybody involved in this case as well,” she said. “I help out a lot on the management side and the fundraising aspect, so there’s when my business degree actually comes in handy.”

Fenessa Adikoesoemo. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

The 24-year-old said the foundation is aware of how art is perceived in Indonesia. According to feedback the foundation received, many people in Indonesia see museums as exclusive indulgences for the upper class.

“The whole culture of art [in Indonesia] is very limited to a very small group of people. The understanding of that small group is also very commercially based, so by creating this museum we are hoping to create a different type of culture,” she said. “We really wanted to create this culture of inclusiveness and make sure that everybody has access to [the museum] as well.”

The team started by applying an affordable entrance ticket, which costs about the same price as a ticket to the cinema. The price tag for adults is Rp 50,000 ($4), Rp 40,000 for students and seniors and Rp 30,000 for children. There is also a special price for a minimum of ten people on a group visit.

The museum’s educational program is quite comprehensive. Fenessa explained that the museum has a dedicated education team that is very active in establishing relationships. Museum MACAN employs an education curator and a school relations officer to identify school systems and how they can contribute to art education.

Fenessa also said the museum is willing to sponsor a school that cannot afford to come to the museum by providing transportation, special guided school visits tour and snacks. They plan to be able to do this for every single school around the local vicinity once every month.

MACAN also has a professional forum for teachers, who can request resources about teaching art in a more effective way.

“We have been reaching out to a lot of different schools, international, national plus and even public schools to come and bring their students here. On top of the ones that we are sponsoring, we’ve had actually a lot of school groups coming here individually on their own as well,” Fenessa said.

The museum is also currently working on a special education kit that it plans to give to different schools.

“It’s a little complicated because we have so many different types of education programs, so it has to really be tailored into different types of art education. These are plans that we are currently working on as well. So, that would be something that we can give to them depending on the [running] exhibition,” she said.

In the long run, Fenessa said the museum is hoping to work together with the government. Agreements are now being discussed but nothing is yet confirmed, so the foundation is focusing on its own penetration into local schools.

Echoing the museum’s focus on not just modern but contemporary art as well, MACAN created a public program that focuses on art education and art theory to get visitors involved in painting, drawing and photography.

“We understand that this is how you get people to come and engage with the museum consistently,” she said.

MACAN saw nearly 20,000 visitors during the inaugural exhibition’s first three weeks, which Fenessa sees as a positive response to the establishment. Visitors vary from mothers with children and students on the weekdays, as well as expatriates, young professionals and families.

“We are really showing to the people that we are serious in creating a museum that meets global international standards, which hopefully shows people that we are not just opening and having the objects there with no proper curatorial research. We are very serious in creating something that is beneficial for the public in the long run as well,” she said.