Documenta is one of the most respected art events in the world. The art program is held every five years in Kassel, Germany.
Recently, organizers chose a group of Indonesian artists to curate the next program. They asked ruangrupa, an Indonesian art collective, to serve as the show’s artistic director.
This is the first time documenta has picked a group of people, instead of an individual, as its curator. The announcement has helped bring attention to Indonesia’s lively yet struggling art scene.
Documenta is now preparing for its 15th show, which will open in June 2022. The art program was launched in 1955 to crush support for Germany’s Nazi Party after the end of World War II.
In a statement, the committee said it chose ruangrupa for its ability to interest many communities.
Ruangrupa was founded in 2000. The group is known for making art in many forms, such as paintings and installations. The collective’s work has been shown around the world, including art biennials in Singapore and Istanbul. The group also curated an art show in the Netherlands in 2016.
At the last documenta event, ruangrupa worked on part of a radio project called Every Time a Ear di Soun.
The next event is called documenta 15. Two ruangrupa members said in a statement the show might explore things like new forms of education and “the importance of art in social practice.”
Another member, Argus FS, told VOA he hopes their curation will improve people’s understanding of modern art. He added ruangrupa is one of few art groups supporting art scenes in cities like Yogyakarta and Jakarta.
Argus explained that many Indonesians do not understand modern art and said there are few art collectors in Jakarta.
Art and government
He thinks the Indonesian government is not doing enough to help the country’s contemporary art scene.
Slamet Aji Pamungkas is with the Creative Economy Agency, a government organization in Indonesia. He told VOA that the agency has always supported the contemporary art scene. He said it offers guidance, improves performance spaces and helps artists get the technology they need.
Tubagus ‘Andre’ Sukmana is a former head of the National Gallery of Indonesia. He now heads the media art department at the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture. Sukmana told VOA that the ministry is ready to offer ruangrupa financing if the group requests it.
Sukmana said the government has put together a plan that will support 10 cultural projects, including contemporary art. He said it also plans to give financial aid to artists outside major cities.
Indonesian art scene
The Indonesian contemporary art scene has grown in places like Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bandung in West Java. In a 2014 book, Yvonne Spielmann describes Indonesia’s art movements, such as the New Art Movement in the 1970s. It was born from protest against the narrow “understanding of art at the nation’s academies.”
Today, artists like Heri Dono and Handiwirman Saputra have received attention, both international and local. Handiwirman has been chosen to represent Indonesia at the Venice Biennale in Italy in 2019.
Argus says there are still issues for Indonesian artists, such as overdependence on private museums to show their work. But, he said, Indonesia has the potential to be the leader of contemporary art in Southeast Asia.
I’m Alice Bryant. And I'm Jill Robbins.
Stanley Widianto wrote this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
curate – v. to select a number of things for presentation, such as for an art show
scene – n. a particular area of activity (such as art or music) that involves many people
practice – n. the action of doing or using something
installation – n. a work of art that usually has several parts (such as a sculpture, lights and sound)
biennial – n. any event that happens every two years; most commonly used to describe large international art shows
contemporary – adj. happening or beginning now or in recent times
academy – n. an organization of people who work to support art, science, or literature
potential – n. a chance that something will happen or exist in the future