Permanent exhibition in New Museum
In the beginning of the 20th Century, European painters including C.L. Dake Jr., W. Dooijewaard, G. P. Adolfs, and many others came to paint the beauty of the Netherlands Indies and her exotic peoples. Their idyllic style of landscape painting became popular, and Indonesian painters such as Abdullah Suriosubroto, Wakidi and Frederick Kasenda also painted the same themes in a similar style. In 1937/8, a group of young artists formed Persagi, the first Indonesian art association. In search of establishing an identity for the young Indonesian artists, Sudjojono, the spokesperson of the group, challenged the predominance of the European landscape painters, criticizing them for merely presenting romanticized renditions about the Indies. While the term “Mooi Indië” (“Beautiful Indies”) was likely to have already been a widely used term for the romanticized idyllic landscapes portraying the Indies, Sudjojono disparaged the term to refer to paintings usually offered to tourists as souvenirs and always included three main components: “mountains, coconut trees and rice fields”, which became “a Sacred Trinity” with which its painters always complied. Today, however, the term Mooi Indië is often used to refer to almost all paintings by foreign artists depicting life in the Indies. Whether they are landscape paintings by Dake, or portraits of Balinese men and women by Dooijewaard and Bonnet, Cristiano’s dream paintings, depictions of daily life in Bali by Donald Friend, or even Arie Smit’s impressions of Balinese landscapes, they are all often regarded as paintings of the Mooi Indië. Indeed, most foreign artists painting Indonesia seem to be inspired by the beauty of her land, people and culture, and therefore paint with their highest sense of aesthetics. However, it is also clear that the aesthetic approach of many artists, including those that are featured in this exhibition, has long departed from the notion of Mooi Indië as Sudjojono redefined it in 1937/8. Let us revisit the art pieces once again with a more critical approach and take ourselves beyond the Mooi Indië.