Jakarta's new art museum

The art world looks to Java in November with a double whammy of art biennales plus the opening of Indonesia's first gallery dedicated to international modern art

By Sarah Barrell
Published 11 Oct 2017, 09:00 BST, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 11:58 BST
Jakarta's new art museum

A place of rich and fierce cultural contrast, the Javanese city of Jakarta is coming of age with this month's opening of MACAN (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara). A determinedly outward-looking art gallery, MACAN is set in a bold contemporary building in the up-and-coming Kebon Jeruk neighbourhood in West Jakarta. It looks set to put the busy Indonesian capital firmly on the cultural tourist map, boosted by the March 2016 launch of Garuda Indonesia's non-stop flights from Heathrow.

Home to the private collection of leading Indonesian collector, Haryanto Adikoesoemo, MACAN will exhibit some 800 modern and contemporary works by names including Damien Hirst, Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin. By local standards this is unflinching stuff but the most controversial piece, perhaps, is by native artist, Arahmaiani Feisal, who made international headlines in the early '90s after fleeing to Perth following death threats from Islamic hardliners in response to her painting, Lingga-Yoni. Featuring a Hindu image of male and female genitalia accompanied by Arabic script, this work now returns to Indonesia thanks to the steady hand of MACAN's director, Aaron Seeto, a veteran of the Australian art scene.

Did you know: The new MACAN museum takes its name in part from nusantara, which is the Indonesian word for archipelago.

The Java juice

Where: The world's most populated island, Java sits between Sumatra and Bali in central Indonesia; Jakarta, its capital, lies at the westerly tip.
Why go: Visit Java this month, when the island hosts two major contemporary art exhibitions: the Jakarta Biennale and Biennale Jogja, in the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta. jakartabiennale.net biennialfoundation.org
What else: If the new MACAN and the art biennales don't appeal, then beat a retreat to the vibrant, colonial streets of Kota districts and Jakarta's Chinatown — known as Glodok.

Global vision: Best new contemporary art galleries

Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town
The newest gallery to open in what's being dubbed as South Africa's modern art capital, this converted grain silo is the biggest public art space on the continent for more than a century.

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens
The lengthy reconstruction of EMST at last comes to fruition as its permanent collection finally opens to the public this autumn, housed in the newly reconstructed old Fix brewery. 

Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Santa Monica Museum of Art gets a swish new home in LA's Downtown arts district this autumn, and a new lease of life, rechristened and rebranded as the ICLA. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto
MOCCA is moving from its hipster rental space in a textile factory on Queen Street West, into the city's landmark Tower Automotive Building. 

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Published in the November 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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