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Jakarta Post

Basoeki Abdullah Museum: Revisiting glory & memory

  • Yuliasri Perdani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, September 27, 2015   /  03:13 pm
Basoeki Abdullah Museum: Revisiting glory & memory Sukarno " height="511" border="0" width="340">Sukarno

Most of the second floor is dedicated to Basoeki’s artworks of Asian and African heads of state.

Basoeki, who spent most of his life overseas, painted portraits of the late Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Brunei’s Sultan Hasanah Bolkiah, the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos and the first two of Indonesia presidents, Sukarno and Soeharto.

Some of the works on display were produced during the periods of his service at state palaces in Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines.

“Most of the paintings are minimalist in terms of color and focus on the facial expressions of the subjects. It is said that Basoeki finished each painting in less than 20 minutes,” said museum head, Joko Madsono.

Joko pointed his hand to a vibrant painting of animals escaping flames in the forest in Perubahan Kehidupan Dunia (Changes in the World).

“Although this shows a forest fire, there are some surreal elements to it. The painting is special as Basoeki rarely produced surrealist works,” Joko said.

Another corner reflects the maestro’s renowned expertise in capturing the beauty of women in canvas. Some paintings radiate elegance and charm, such as in the portraits of Dewi Soekarno and Wanita Berambut Pendek Tersenyum (Smiling Shorthaired Woman).

While some works stimulate the imagination, such as the portrait of the late first lady of Indonesia Ibu Tien Soeharto with her enigmatic smile, which seems to convey amiability but also assertiveness.

Important artworks that are absent in the museum are probably Basoeki’s signature paintings of nude women.

Joko said the museum once displayed them but decided to put them in storage after observing that the eyes of many underage visitors were glued to the paintings.

“It was a valuable experience for me,” Joko said. “It was not the right time to display them, but we should show them someday, because they are a part of Basoeki’s work.”

Joko said he expects to display the nude paintings in a separate room in a new building beside the museum. The four-story building will be open next year and will house over 80 paintings, which are currently kept in storage.

The current museum only displays 36 paintings. Eight of the paintings were only bought in the last few years through donations and purchases. Some collectors kind-heartedly sold the paintings at prices far below their market value.

The Basoeki Abdullah Museum is relatively unknown to Jakartans or tourists. The exterior, indeed, does not resemble a museum. If not for the Basoeki statue erected out the front, the museum would look like any other house in the neighborhood.

“It is sad to learn that even some freshmen majoring in art don’t know who Basoeki Abdullah was,” Joko said.

In an apparent effort to introduce public to the maestro’s works, the museum has collaborated with artists to hold painting workshops, competitions and exhibitions.

The latest exhibition is “Rayuan 100 Tahun Basoeki Abdullah” (The Allure of 100 Years of Basoeki Abdullah), which runs until Sept. 30 at the National Museum in Jakarta.

 â€œThe exhibition theme is inspired by his remarkable social skills,” Mikke said. “He had an extensive network and easily persuaded female models to pose nude. This would have been impossible to achieve if he had no ability to flirt.”

The exhibition explores seven areas of Basoeki’s life and career, ranging from his relationship with Sukarno, Javanese culture and mysticism to his works on women.

Also at the event, some artists display their interpretations of Basoeki through paintings and installations. They previously had taken part in a “Legacy of Javanese Culture” exhibition at Galeri Rumah Jawa in Kemang, South Jakarta, which was held as part of Basoeki’s centennial birthday celebration.

In June, the museum, in collaboration with Wedha’s Pop Art Portraits (WPAP) community, invited young artists to present their interpretations on Basoeki and his works. The competition attracted over 800 pop art portraits submitted by artists across the country.

“We hope that Basoeki’s works can inspire the young generation,” Joko said.

“Young artists should not be trying to be the next Raden Saleh, Basoeki or Affandi, but they must be inspired to achieve more than those famed painters.”

Soeharto (left) Tien Soeharto (right)

Perhaps no other museum in Indonesia brings such a rush of mixed feelings as Basoeki Abdullah Museum.

Located in a serene residential zone near the busy Fatmawati area in South Jakarta, the Basoeki Abdullah Museum captures the celebrated artistic achievements of Indonesia'€™s late realism maestro, but is also a reminder of a heart-breaking tragedy.

The two-story building used to be Basoeki'€™s home. He and his family had only lived for a few years at the house when a group of thieves broke into the house and stole 43 of his watches in late 1993. The 78-year-old painter was found dead in his bedroom.

In his will, Basoeki bequeathed his home to the state, along with a third of his painting collection. The remaining paintings were given to his two daughters.

The museum, opened in 2001 after series of renovations, is evidence of Basoeki'€™s relentless love for art and his country.

As visitors enter the museum, they see a living room decorated with a Basoeki self-portrait and a painting of his wife, Nataya Nareerat, a Thailand beauty pageant runner up whom he met during his stint as the court painter of the Thai Royal Family in 1960s.

Next to his self-portrait is Basoeki'€™s painting of their daughter, Cicilia Sidhawati.

In a line of vitrines, visitors can see some of the paintings Basoeki made in his earlier years. One of them is a realistic sketch of Mahatma Gandhi that Basoeki drew when he was 10.

His impressive skill saw the young Basoeki receive a scholarship at the Academie Voor Beeldende Kunsten in Den Haag in 1933.

The artist'€™s painting tools, his signature berets and double-breasted suits are also on the display at the museum.

Art expert Mikke Susanto describes Basoeki as man with a unique perspective '€” a pious Catholic with a penchant for Javanese culture and mysticism.

Two areas of the museum represents his various tastes. One corner displays his extensive collection of Javanese wayang puppets, while his bedroom '€” which is maintained in its original setting '€” is adorned with plenty of religious figurines.

'€œHe used to spend a considerable amount of time praying here,'€ the museum guide said while pointing at rosaries and figurines placed on a small table beside the bed.

Sukarno Sukarno

Most of the second floor is dedicated to Basoeki'€™s artworks of Asian and African heads of state.

Basoeki, who spent most of his life overseas, painted portraits of the late Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Brunei'€™s Sultan Hasanah Bolkiah, the Philippines'€™ Ferdinand Marcos and the first two of Indonesia presidents, Sukarno and Soeharto.

Some of the works on display were produced during the periods of his service at state palaces in Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines.

'€œMost of the paintings are minimalist in terms of color and focus on the facial expressions of the subjects. It is said that Basoeki finished each painting in less than 20 minutes,'€ said museum head, Joko Madsono.

Joko pointed his hand to a vibrant painting of animals escaping flames in the forest in Perubahan Kehidupan Dunia (Changes in the World).

'€œAlthough this shows a forest fire, there are some surreal elements to it. The painting is special as Basoeki rarely produced surrealist works,'€ Joko said.

Another corner reflects the maestro'€™s renowned expertise in capturing the beauty of women in canvas. Some paintings radiate elegance and charm, such as in the portraits of Dewi Soekarno and Wanita Berambut Pendek Tersenyum (Smiling Shorthaired Woman).

While some works stimulate the imagination, such as the portrait of the late first lady of Indonesia Ibu Tien Soeharto with her enigmatic smile, which seems to convey amiability but also assertiveness.

Important artworks that are absent in the museum are probably Basoeki'€™s signature paintings of nude women.

Joko said the museum once displayed them but decided to put them in storage after observing that the eyes of many underage visitors were glued to the paintings.

'€œIt was a valuable experience for me,'€ Joko said. '€œIt was not the right time to display them, but we should show them someday, because they are a part of Basoeki'€™s work.'€

Joko said he expects to display the nude paintings in a separate room in a new building beside the museum. The four-story building will be open next year and will house over 80 paintings, which are currently kept in storage.

The current museum only displays 36 paintings. Eight of the paintings were only bought in the last few years through donations and purchases. Some collectors kind-heartedly sold the paintings at prices far below their market value.

The Basoeki Abdullah Museum is relatively unknown to Jakartans or tourists. The exterior, indeed, does not resemble a museum. If not for the Basoeki statue erected out the front, the museum would look like any other house in the neighborhood.

'€œIt is sad to learn that even some freshmen majoring in art don'€™t know who Basoeki Abdullah was,'€ Joko said.

In an apparent effort to introduce public to the maestro'€™s works, the museum has collaborated with artists to hold painting workshops, competitions and exhibitions.

The latest exhibition is '€œRayuan 100 Tahun Basoeki Abdullah'€ (The Allure of 100 Years of Basoeki Abdullah), which runs until Sept. 30 at the National Museum in Jakarta.

 '€œThe exhibition theme is inspired by his remarkable social skills,'€ Mikke said. '€œHe had an extensive network and easily persuaded female models to pose nude. This would have been impossible to achieve if he had no ability to flirt.'€

The exhibition explores seven areas of Basoeki'€™s life and career, ranging from his relationship with Sukarno, Javanese culture and mysticism to his works on women.

Also at the event, some artists display their interpretations of Basoeki through paintings and installations. They previously had taken part in a '€œLegacy of Javanese Culture'€ exhibition at Galeri Rumah Jawa in Kemang, South Jakarta, which was held as part of Basoeki'€™s centennial birthday celebration.

In June, the museum, in collaboration with Wedha'€™s Pop Art Portraits (WPAP) community, invited young artists to present their interpretations on Basoeki and his works. The competition attracted over 800 pop art portraits submitted by artists across the country.

'€œWe hope that Basoeki'€™s works can inspire the young generation,'€ Joko said.

'€œYoung artists should not be trying to be the next Raden Saleh, Basoeki or Affandi, but they must be inspired to achieve more than those famed painters.'€

Soeharto (left) Tien Soeharto (right)Soeharto (left) Tien Soeharto (right)


 '€” Photos by JP/Yuliasri Perdani

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