An Interview with Curator Enin Supriyanto
In town for Art Stage Singapore, we speak to Enin Supriyanto, curator of the Collectors' Stage platform at this year's fair. Scroll down to find out more about how he started as a curator and his thoughts on the changing landscape of Southeast Asian art.
Enin, thank you for taking this interview with the Artling. You’ve been an independent curator and critic for a while now. Can you tell us when and how it all began?
It started in the 1990s. I was working as Art Director in an advertising & marketing agency in Jakarta, but I kept in touch with my friends who were active in the art and was always interested in contemporary art. It was probably just my luck that at the end of 1993, FX Harsono called me and asked me whether I would like to contribute an essay for the catalogue of his solo show. I was very excited. I knew he was one of the member of Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia (Indonesian New Art Movement) of the 1970’s. So, I visited and met him, discussed about his works for the show and then wrote for the catalogue. But, of course at that time I didn’t know much about curating. But I learned a lot from this experience. Later on, I was asked by another artist, Dadang Christanto, to write for his solo installation project. And later on for a group show featuring works of Agus Suwage, Tisna Sanjaya and Diyanto (in Bandung). So, maybe the time was just right, because at the same time, entering the second half of 1990s, more and more regional and international art events in the region started to include Indonesian contemporary artists' works in their events - mainly in Japan and Australia. In my case, it’s the The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Queensland (started 1993). I got invited to write a brief essay and presented a paper in the seminar of their 2nd edition (1996). Since then, I was more and more interested in exhibition making and writing.
"Luxury Crime" by Agus Suwage
Image courtesy of Artnet
Since then, how has the contemporary Indonesian art scene changed and developed?
Many things had changed and developed. With the networks that opened in the late 1990s, many Indonesian artists got the opportunity to show their works abroad. And then, the social-political crisis that happened in the late 1990s in Indonesia - which is known today as ‘Reformasi’ (1997-1998) - brought a significant change for Indonesians: we toppled down Suharto and his authoritarian regime who controlled the country for more than three decades and we moved towards democracy. In general, together with the freedom of press, art expression become more vibrant and free, for sure. And the later on, we started to experience the impact of global contemporary art market with international and national auction houses started their operations in Indonesia and in the region. Later on followed by international art fairs. So, basically, I experienced the times in which contemporary art was still only about content and the message that we shared among friends (in the art circle) to now, in which art is often talked about in the context of their price tags.
You’ve followed and commented on the work of Agus Suwage for a long time. How do you see him and his generation yielding to the next? What are the noticeable differences and trends between them?
Agus Suwage is still one of the most active and important Indonesian contemporary artists. His generation learned a lot through different times and changes of Indonesia and what happened in the art scene. We still have some of these well-seasoned artist from the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990s around. Aside from Agus Suwage, Arahmaiani and Tisna Sanjaya are still very active. Even FX Harsono, who started his career in 1970s, is still very active. All together with the emerging talents, they shape Indonesian contemporary art scene as it is known today. Agus Suwage is still very strong with his drawings and paintings, exploring different materials from time to time. He still makes installations as well. Arahmaiani, as well as Tisna Sanjaya is still working with community, in practicing their artistic expression while at the same time dealing with social and environmental issues.
"The Light of Spirit" by FX Harsono
Image source unknown
Besides Suwage and his contemporaries, are there any other emerging artists whom you are tracking with?
Well, I am always interested on what’s happening around in Indonesian art scene. I try to get in touch and get information of what they’re doing from time to time. I have work with many artists, from different generations from time to time. I have worked with—just to name a few of them: all members of the JENDELA group, Agung Kurniawan, Eko Nugroho, members of MES 56 on photography show, Tromarama, Syaiful Garibaldi, and many more… And yes, there are many new talents now… Each of them represent different era, so to speak.
Replacing Myself 4 by Eko Nugroho
Relief print, coloured shaped STPI handmade paper / 94.0cm x 73.0cm / 37.0″ x 28.7″/ Unique Work / USD $7,100
Available on theartling.com!
Coming near on the horizon is the opening of MACAN — truly a breakthrough as your nation’s first international modern and contemporary art museum. What can we look forward to with this addition to the landscape?
I have to admit that public art/cultural institutions are still very weak in Indonesia. So, within this context, the hope is a bit high that MACAN can fill in this big gap. But, this is an important development. I can only hope that more private collectors or private companies will follow this step. Especially nowadays, as we witness that production, circulation and distribution of contemporary art works are happening in the market networks, there is a huge accumulation of art works in private collections. We need new model, or initiatives and platforms so that these collections can be seen and accessed by the public.
Museum MACAN set to open at the end of 2017 in Indonesia
Image courtesy of Shanghai Daily
In terms of its art market, Indonesia has really solidified ties with Singapore and Hong Kong. How do you see these networks expanding and branching out in the coming years?
One thing for sure, Art Stage is now already in Jakarta, Indonesia. It’s a clear indication that the network of Southeast Asian market of contemporary art is getting stronger. We are also having more and more galleries, art dealers working together in promoting and presenting artists from the region. And more and more young collectors are looking for works of artists from different countries in the region, not only of Indonesia.
The inaugural edition of Art Stage Jakarta last year
Image courtesy of Art Stage Jakarta
What are some of the fruitful connections you’ve made between the artists from these cities?
Most of the times, I get information and connections from my colleagues: curators, researchers, academics who actively engage with the local/national art scene in each country. So, from this networks, I can learn more about what’s going on in this region. Often, for some occasions, if they visit Indonesia, or I have the opportunity to invite them to some events in Indonesia, I would then ask them to give a talk, discussion, workshops, etc.
What are your current research interests now? Tell us about some exciting exhibitions and collaborations you are working on!
Last year, I published compilation of my essays in a book, in Bahasa Indonesia. So, this year, I hope I can publish the English version. Another book is about ‘Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia’. This project is a collaborative effort together with FX. Harsono and friends from Hyphen, Yogyakarta — Grace Samboh and Ratna Mufida. It will be a compilation of archives and new commissioned essays by prominent scholars and curators about the movement. Hopefully, we can finish and publish it this year. It’s been too long (the whole preparation and process). But, for the time being, because the schedule is so tight, I am focusing on the presentation for Indonesian Pavilion in Venice Biennale (2017). I am involved in the artistic team with Tintin Wulia (artist) and Agung Hujatnika (curator). And then later, this year, working with Charles Esche and Riksa Afiaty, I am preparing a show of Indonesian contemporary art in BOZAR Museum, Brussels—part of the Europalia Festival 2017 in Belgium. The show will be accompanied with an international symposium too. So, hopefully all will work well.
For more content on Singapore Art Week 2017, click here.
To see previous edition of Art Stage Singapore, head here.
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