MY JAKARTA: MONICA GUNAWAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR of ART:1 GALLERY
Anyone who says Jakarta is devoid of first-rate art museums simply hasnʼt looked hard enough. Lik most of the capitalʼs gems, Art:1 in Kemayoran is tucked away, behind the Jakarta International Expo and Gandhi International School.
Managing director Monica Gunawan and her team at Art:1 are reinventing the gallery, combining a museum and art space into one venue in the heart of the city.
Monica doesnʼt want visitors to suffer the cramped halls of local museums, which lack engaging programs, tours and air-conditioning. But her Art:1 alternative is simply a means to an end: bringing greater art awareness to Jakarta.
How do those of us who are art rookies differentiate the art space from the museum?
The museum has its own feel. Itʼs full of work from really important artists and it feels very ʻserious.ʼ The space is very quiet — each piece has its own wall. The museumʼs signature is a round-shaped sunroof that goes all the way to the second floor so the space is flooded with natural light and feels very meditative. The art space, on the other hand, is more for contemporary artists, so it feels very vibrant, experimental and fun. The walls are round-shaped, so it gives more of a challenge to young artists whose pieces are on display. In here we have video art, photography, mixed media, installations and new media pieces.
Can you quickly break down the design and layout of Art:1?
There are three floors of museum and three floors of art space connected by a bridge on each floor. Then on the ground floor we have an art shop for small souvenirs or custom framing. Downstairs we also have the workshop, where I do restoration consultation. For further information, we provide guidebooks written in both Indonesian and English.
More people should know about this. Are there any discounts for local schools?
In Jakarta we donʼt have the luxury of learning about art in school, so weʼd love to have the local schools in Jakarta come visit and take the tour without having to pay or without feeling pressured to buy. We want students to be aware that an international-standard museum like this exists and know certain works of art, why they are important and why they should remember the artist.
For us, first and foremost, this is about building art awareness. We want to share with the rest of Jakarta that we are here. Thereʼs a new museum in town, so please come and learn about art.
We are open to the public Tuesday to Saturday, starting from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We also have an art class every Sunday.
Who participates in the class? Kids? Teenagers? Adults?
We have kids from all ages participating in the art classes, but it seems like the adults have the most fun.
What about for veteran art enthusiasts? How do you accommodate them?
Every Saturday we have art discussions; itʼs more for collectors, but we welcome everyone. Normally we have between 50 and 70 people. We talk about everything, from the art, the artists, about the building, its unique concept, and what everyone can expect from an international-standard museum like this.
Speaking of concept, why combine an art space and museum? Isnʼt it all a bit overwhelming?
Weʼre reinventing the gallery, turning some parts into a museum so you can see and learn about Indonesian art history. We chose a modern artist, Sunaryo, to help us represent that in our office facade, to portray our vision for the future, to keep building up.
The stuff weʼre showing in the museum is very rare. Youʼd never see it in a gallery and you can never buy it because itʼs really expensive. But we have the privilege of building this museum so we can show really important art to our audience right now. At the moment itʼs not possible to see this kind of quality artwork unless you go to someoneʼs house and view their personal collection. This is a space where you can see a lot of really important artwork under one roof.
Can you tell us about the current exhibition?
ʻFlight for Lightʼ is more about Indonesian art and religiosity; the special connection between each artist and a higher being that can take many forms, like dances, costumes, rituals, prayers and God. Works from senior artists are put in the museum area of the exhibition, which means it is part of the permanent collection. Other works selected by our curator come from our own collection, collectors or other artists.
Whatʼs the next program or event you have coming up?
Following the end of our current ʻFlight for Lightʼ exhibition in late January, in February weʼre going to have an exhibition for Srihadi, who is also a modern artist. And then weʼre going to do a comic book exhibition in the same month.
Monica Gunawan was talking to Zack Petersen.