Emergence: How Art Porters Gallery is facilitating the emergence of some very talented Indonesian Artists
Guillaume Levy-Lambert shares his thoughts on the emergence of some very talented Indonesian Artists.
(Naufal Abshar, ‘Master of Battered’, 2018, acrylic and oil pastel on canvas, 170 x 189 cm)
Emergence of some very talented Indonesian Artists
I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of emergence. As an art aficionado, in my 20s I started collecting the works of young artist friends — because I liked the works, and because I wanted to assist in their emergence. Perhaps being a polite French for not wanting them to starve, having grown up with the tragic Van Gogh story part of the mainstream lore. In Tokyo during the bubble years (1986-90), I had bought a few works by Piet “Pitu” Altenloh, a Belgian artist and then resident of Japan. Unknowingly I had spread the seed that would lead to opening a gallery many years later in Singapore.
What are the challenges facing young Indonesian Artists today?
For 500 artists there is only one gallery – if this is a serious statistic, I was not able to track it. However, it powerfully conveys the challenge faced by many artists the world over to access collectors and the public at large.
(Naufal Abshar, ‘The World of Entertainment’, 2018, mixed media on canvas, 425 x 210 cm)
A few friends who visited the posh Minami-Aoyama apartment of this golden boy asked how should they go about getting one of Pitu’s vivid portraits on Japanese rice paper. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had organised two or three exhibitions and started promoting Pitu in Paris and Taipei as well through good friends glorified into a budding and short-lived international dealer network.
Fast track to September 1999 — Mark [Goh] and I have just met a couple of months earlier and we decide to collect seriously to leave a legacy of The Calendar Story that had just started unfolding. Mark points out that we can’t collect everything, so we exclude Roy Lichtenstein (though one of the interpretations of our collection is that we are building a monument honouring him), and decide to focus on the emerging Chinese artists of our generation. We take this decision on the first day of our new life together, explicitly stating that we want to inject money in these artists lives so that they can create more magic for others like Lichtenstein had created for us.
(Naufal Abshar, ‘Work, Insurance bills-repeat’, 2018, mixed media installation; Naufal Abshar, ‘The Strongest Weapon is Film’, 2018, 120 x 182 cm)
Our decision was inspired on many levels; some of the “emerging” artists we collected early in this millennium are now considered “established”. And so, five years ago, Sean [Soh] and I, with Mark’s encouragements, opened Art Porters Gallery with the mission of sharing happiness with art, and decided to repeat the feat, this time with mainly South-East Asian artists — in particular, a small group of very talented Indonesians.
Our selection criteria for those artists we have decided to accompany as they emerge are originality, focus, and personality. We’re very conscious of practical considerations as well, so logistical considerations import as well as we want prices in the gallery to remain as accessible as possible.
With this in mind, we’re proudly representing today Mulyana, Naufal Abshar, Wayan Novi and Agung Santosa. We must ensure that they can create meaningful, unique works that hopefully will take their place in art history like those of the Chinese artists we collected twenty years ago. They must be able to show their creations both to an Indonesian and international public and that they can sell to local and international collectors who appreciate deeply their respective practices — and in turn will fuel more artistic magic.
(Agung Santosa, ‘Mandarin Orange’, 2017, Mixed media, 144 x 34 x 34 cm; Agung Santosa, ‘Egg-cellent Series’, 2017, Resin and pigment sculpture, 30 cm)
Our own abilities to show and sell is limited by constraints of time and space. We operate from a beautiful space in a conserved Peranakan shophouse on the edge of Singapore’s Chinatown, however, that’s a destination in itself. That’s why we’re also active participants in the region’s art fairs — like Art Central in Hong Kong where we showed very successfully Mulyana earlier this year, or Malaysia Art Expo where Agung Sentosa’s new egg series emerges this October.
We’ve also been early adopters of Jakarta’s fairs with participation in the first two Art Stage editions. We were wondering if local collectors would acquire Indonesian artworks from a Singapore-based gallery? We are happy to report that the answer is yes. Indonesian collectors are aware of the importance for their artists to also emerge internationally and derive a welcome pride when our tastes align.
We’re very grateful for the support of the collectors wherever they are based, their purchases validate the work that the artists and we provide, and is a concrete form of encouragement.
(Pilgrimage to My Hometown, Pulang ke Rumah, 2017, Acrylic and ballpoint on canvas, 160 x 150 cm)
This is also an opportunity to salute the work of ArtJog, an artist-lead annual effort that showcases in Yogyakarta featuring a very well-curated selection of artists. It can provide the first venue for the emergence of young artists — in fact, this is where we first came across Mulyana’s work in 2015. We’ve also partnered with galleries outside Singapore. Earlier this year we organised a solo exhibition of Naufal Abshar works at D Galerie in Jakarta and early next year we will present a Wayan Novi exhibition with a friendly gallery in Taipei.
An artist is a person who is highly conscious of his unique perception of the world, and who strives to share it. A great artist succeeds in showing the originality of his perception and awakens in us a new sensibility. The artists we represent are in that category — and fundamentally this is why they will emerge. As for the challenges you were asking me about, dear Art Republik, are they simply stepping stones in the road to emergence?
Written by Guillaume Levy-Lambert of Art Porters Gallery
Art Porters Gallery; 64 Spottiswoode Park Rd, Singapore 088652