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Exhibition puts Sukarno's internationalist spirit at forefront

Agus Dermawan T.

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, August 3, 2018  /  08:31 am
Exhibition puts Sukarno's internationalist spirit at forefront

Under the Moonlight by Basoeki Abdullah. (JP/Agus Dermawan T.)

Art enthusiasts can enjoy a feast for the eyes at the Indonesian National Gallery in Central Jakarta with 45 items from the Presidential Palace now on display during the “Indonesia Semangat Dunia” (Indonesia the Global Spirit) exhibition.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will open the exhibition on Aug. 3, and it will run until Aug. 31.

The exhibition is special because it will coincide with the Asian Games, which will start on Aug 18. The internationalist spirit of the exhibition reflects the words of the country’s first president, Sukarno, during the speech he gave the first time Indonesia hosted the Games in 1962: “The spirit of unity shared by the nations of Asia is part of the world’s zeal for concord.”

Curators Watie Moerany Santoso and Amir Sidharta, assisted by Sally Texania, made this spirit of internationalism the basis for their selections. 

As such, the works chosen come from a range of nations and are interlinked by the way in which they capture and represent the ideas of mutual support and respect, transforming the internationalism of Sukarno’s message into art. 

The pieces exhibited come almost entirely from Sukarno’s collection, and have been kept for decades in the Jakarta, Bogor, Cipanas, Yogyakarta and Tampaksiring palaces.

The specially designed exhibition room is elegantly filled with paintings from Asian and international artists, such as Fernando Amorsolo from the Philippines, Shiavax Chavda from India, Nhek Dim from Vietnam, Shinsui Ito from Japan and Gustavo Montoya from Mexico. These foreign painters explore Indonesian culture through their works.

On the other hand, the works of Indonesian painters touch on the cultures of other nations. For example, a work by Trubus, a painter known for exploring entertaining themes, depicts a girl studying near an open window in a house in Prague. 

Then there are the works of Basoeki Abdullah, a romantic realist/naturalist painter. His brilliant and legendary paintings reveal his reverence for the cultures of Asia. Under the Moonlight illustrates the gracefulness of an Indian woman, while Woman in Chinese Dance Drama Attire celebrates the artistic costumes of Chinese theater and A Burmese Girl with an Umbrella is a loving and sweet depiction of a Burmese woman. 

Another section of the exhibition displays the works of Raden Saleh, such as Fighting a Lion and The Bull Hunt, which reflect his admiration for the romantic French painters Eugene Delacorix and Horace Vernet. Meanwhile, The Tibetan Girl by Lee Man Fong warmly captures the beauty and of a girl from Tibet.

A number of bronze statues from international artists also grace the room, including the works of Yevgeny Vitorovich Vuchetich from the Soviet Union (now Russia), Roberto Juan Capurro from Argentina and Jean Daniel Guerry from France.

In addition to the spirit of internationalism, artworks capturing Indonesia’s revolutionary struggle are also on display. Their inclusion in the exhibition is to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day, which falls on Aug. 17.

Several works explore the nuances of war, such as Rustamadji’s Nobody Wants to Return Despite Imminent Doom, Harijadi Sumadidjaja’s Tuanku Imam Bonjol and Trubus’ Warrior. One not to be overlooked is General Sudirman by Joes Soepadyo. 

General Sudirman was one Sukarno’s favorites, as he believed gazing upon it gave him peace of mind. Li Wasim, a palace painter from 1962 to 1967, once said. “Every time president Sukarno was going to make a big decision, he would face the painting. He seemed to ask it for permission.”

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