Asian collectors unveil plans to build major museums

Spaces in Bangladesh and Indonesia will strengthen cultural infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia

by Gareth Harris  |  21 March 2016
Haryanto Adikoesoemo. Photo: Yuwono Widiasta
Haryanto Adikoesoemo. Photo: Yuwono Widiasta
Two museums planned for South and Southeast Asia are set to redraw the art-world map and boost the cultural infrastructure of both Bangladesh and Indonesia, according to the patrons behind the large-scale Modern and contemporary art institutions.

An ambitious 43,000-sq.-ft museum funded entirely by the Indonesian businessman Haryanto Adikoesoemo will form part of the entrepreneur’s new residential and business development in the western Kebon Jeruk district of Jakarta. The new venue, Museum Macan (Museum of Modern and contemporary art in Nusantara), is due to open in early 2017.

Adikoesoemo, who runs a chemical and energy logistics conglomerate, owns more than 800 works by both Asian and Western artists such as Raden Saleh, Jeff Koons, and Frank Stella.

But the newly appointed director, Thomas Berghuis, previously the curator of Chinese art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, says that the new institution will not revolve around the founder’s holdings.

“While the collection will provide a strong foundation to draw on for our museum vision… Museum Macan will also focus on research and developing a dynamic exhibition programme with guest curators and in-house curators working on various types of exhibitions, and with artists on developing new works,” he says.

Asked whether the museum will cater to local, as well as international, audiences, Berghuis says: “Absolutely. Our aim is to help foster a healthy and sustainable art ecology for Indonesia, and to provide new platforms to connect Indonesian art and artists to the world, and the world’s art to Indonesia.” He declined to give budget details.

Meanwhile, Nadia Samdani and her husband Rajeeb—Bangladesh’s most high profile collecting couple—are behind a vast new arts centre scheduled to open in Sylhet, northeast Bangladesh, in 2018. They established the Samdani Art Foundation in 2011, and launched the first edition of the Dhaka Art Summit the following year (the third edition closed in February).

The centre, the first contemporary art institution in the country, will house part of the permanent collection of the Samdani Art Foundation, which has acquired more than 500 South Asian Modern and contemporary works in the past five years by artists including Naeen Mohaiemen of Bangladesh and Shahzia Sikander of Lahore. Exhibition spaces will be dedicated to contemporary art from Bangladesh, South Asia and the rest of the world.

“The building and acquisition of works is funded entirely by the Samdani Art Foundation, but residencies, workshops and temporary exhibitions will be realised with international partners, such as the Polish Institute and [Singapore-based] Asia Europe Foundation,” a spokeswoman for the project says.

Diana Campbell Betancourt, the artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation, will direct the centre. The project is already gathering speed. This September, the Polish artist Pawel Althamer is due to collaborate with officials at a drug rehabilitation centre in Sylhet to create a sculpture for the 100-acre site.

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