Yogyakartan artist Ichwan Noor's Abu Dhabi F1 exposé

Richard Horstman

Artivist, observes and reports on developments in the Bali and Indonesian art scenes


Jakarta, posted: Thu, December 28, 2017 | 12:34 pm

Noor's works received large local and international media exposure.(I. Noor/File)

Reaching out to new audiences across diverse sectors of society to attract greater appreciation and acceptance of art is an ongoing process for artists and the art industry.

In recent years, the Indonesian contemporary art world has held successful events merging with the fashion and design worlds, gaining increased exposure and popularity for leading brands, including fairs, galleries and the artists themselves.

Yogyakarta-based artist Ichwan Noor recently had a unique opportunity to capture the attention of perhaps an unlikely sector of the public: the international Formula One racing industry and F1 fans. He exhibited three of his sculptures at the 2017 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, on Nov. 23-26.

Upon invitation from the Yas Marina Circuit, Noor exhibited three of his iconic works inspired by the motor vehicle in Art@Yas, a side program conducted at the main grandstand during the Middle East’s biggest international event.

The final race of the 2017 calendar attracted a crowd of more than 60,000 people. Noor’s creations enthralled the local and international audience, many of whom were amazed to see the classic, arguably the most recognizable four-wheeler on the planet, breathtakingly transformed.

Ichwan Noor's three works at Art@Yas, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi. (I. Noor/File)

Caste in aluminum, featuring original auto parts of the VW beetle, 180 centimeters in diameter, Beetle Sphere, colored black, and Beetle Sphere, colored grey, are a continuation of an ongoing series the artist began in 2011. 

First exhibited internationally at the 2013 Art Basel Hong Kong, the works feature the 1953 Volkswagen Beetle reconfigured in a variety of new shapes, including cubes and spheres. The Beetle Sphere features in the collections of several major national and private institutions in Indonesia, Australia (National Gallery of Victoria), Germany, China, Turkey, the United States, Sweden and India. Noor’s third work, Got Wood, 2017, is a to-scale replica of an F1 racing car constructed from scraps of mahogany and teak wood.

According to Noor’s artist statement, “The idea behind my sculptures emerged from an insight toward objects that are products of a ‘transportation culture,’ which induce signs of spiritual emotion — to behold a vehicle is to have a ‘magical’ or supernatural identity. By combining the techniques of manipulation and substitution, the sculptures form tends towards a realistic distortion allowing fresh interpretations about the object, and a shift in observation creating associative meanings.”

“The VW is familiar to almost everybody across the globe, no matter their age or social status. I see the VW Beetle as one of the most successful designs,” said the artist, who graduated from the School of Visual Art at the Indonesia Institute of the Arts (ISI), Yogyakarta, and is a professor of fine arts at the University of Yogyakarta.  

The works’ creation process involves Noor first making a polyurethane mold of a genuine Beetle, carving a spherical polyurethane replica of the vehicle’s body and then casting it in aluminum. A separate spherical interior is produced and fitted to the cast exterior. The sculpture is then painted, fitted with acrylic windows and genuine trim pieces, including lights, wheels and tires.

F1 fans observe Noor's 'Got Wood,' a wooden replica of an F1 racing car. (I. Noor/File)

Got Wood, also called Boyhood, Manliness or Manhood, “represents a set of traits, mannerisms, and characteristics associated with boys and men,” he said. “Speed is a captivating symbol for some men who have great courage, while being a symbol of masculinity for strength, competition, courage and adventure.”

“As we all know, the Indonesian art infrastructure is still fragile, so I try to take advantage of existing global infrastructure. With limited local and world art markets, it is important that artists interact with people beyond the artworld and exhibit in public spaces outside of the current gallery and museum system to make breakthroughs into new markets and art collections,” added Noor, who was born in Jakarta in 1964 and is renowned for his large-scale sculptures of hybrid human, animal and technological forms, and for working with bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, various used materials and resin.

The Middle East is no longer foreign to modern art with a lot of modern art being purchased by collectors from the region. In the world of contemporary art collections, however, collectors from this region are still lagging behind collectors from Asia.

“For me, the most important thing is to create a new art map outside of the map that is understood by Indonesian artists. Professionalism, of course, within the globalized art world is a necessity,” he said.

“There is a serious and massive effort from the [United Arab Emirates] to participate in the flow of the contemporary art world, which is directly related to their strategy that to raise the prestige of their country. This certainly will create many opportunities for Indonesian artists.

“Artists should take the littlest of opportunities of getting involved in the global art infrastructure, and ‘anything goes’ is a most appropriate expression for contemporary art works that we can take on the positive side.” (kes)


Richard Horstman, a cultural observer with over 25 years’ experience in Indonesia, has supported the Bali and Indonesian art scenes for more than nine years as a journalist, writer, art tourism presenter and advisor at Cata Odata Art Space in Ubud. A bridge between the art world and the public, he has been published in The Jakarta Post and various other newspapers.


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