Journal: Exploring Jakarta’s First Contemporary Art Museum, MACAN

It’s been more than a month since the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Museum MACAN), finally opened its doors to the public, after much anticipation from art enthusiasts in the archipelago and Southeast Asian region.

Although this is slowly changing, there are simply limited options of ‘things-to-do’ here in Jakarta. As someone who grew up here, I have trouble trying to pick places to take my friends to when they visit, because all we’ve got is a lot of malls, cafes and okay the occasional cool events — but they really don’t happen as often as they should.

Museum MACAN offers a first of its kind in the capital city, and certainly a welcome alternative to the (narrow) selection of weekend activities for Jakartans.

Its inaugural exhibition, “Art Turns. World Turns.” features 90 artworks from a collection of nearly 800, boasting household names in the industry, from Andy Warhol to Mark Rothko, all the way to Indonesian painters like Raden Saleh and S. Sudjojono.

The displayed works were assembled over a 25 year period, and attempts to showcase Indonesia’s cultural history and society.

The exhibit will run until March 18 next year.

But MACAN also hopes to encourage art education in Indonesia, believing that “broad art appreciation by the public unlocks so many benefits for our communities.”

There’s something to be said about such a mission, in a country where art is seen as a luxury and museums are viewed as exclusive indulgences for the upper class.

MACAN saw nearly 20,000 visitors in its first three weeks of being opened, which is a testament to either the future of the establishment or the trend-hopping habits among Indonesians.

It can’t hurt to be optimistic, of course — especially when the people behind the museum seem to be determined to stick to international standards and offering something good for the public.

This also happens to be where visitors can experience Yayoi Kusama’s famous “Infinity Room,” a popular mirrored installation that is so ‘gram-worthy that the museum has a specific rule and time frame in response to the queue.

As you walk around the museum, you can’t help but feel like you’re taking one step closer to get to know Indonesia better. This is evident from Raden Saleh’s Indische Landschaap” and H. Widayat’s “Menonton Sepak Bola.”

It seemed impossible to take your eyes off Walter Spies’ “Sawahlandschaft mit Gunung Agung,” which reminds you of a simpler time and seem to capture Bali’s exceptional beauty that is more known by the rest of the world than the country as a whole.

“Art Turns. World Turns.” is an insight into Indonesia, and a crack at the possibility that art offers to magnify our experiences. So much of what was displayed isn’t just an introduction to the country’s history, but also a great presentation of the interconnectedness of our world from the perspectives of art that is more than fitting in the global society we live in today.


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