Friday, May 11, 2007

The Transposition of Artworks, Taste, and Reference

Mikke Susanto & Nunuk Ambarwati
Transposition: the shifting of position; the process or the change of function and category without the change in shape 1
Since artworks are regarded having trade values, so they have become luxurious items, as well as “miraculous”. It happens because of certain reason. First, it is rare. Second, it implies certain values. Third, it rings specific bell that satisfies someone’s taste and desire. Those are why these “miraculous” things then give impacts – direct or indirect – to someone’s biography.
On the other hand, paintings are also able to manifest so many human needs, especially for the social-cultural-political relation with other human beings. The luxurious items named paintings, for the possessor, seems to be the media for the forming of another capital. Hobby, self fulfilling, mind therapy, or kinds of “cultural ecstasy” have become the reasons or another function that enforce art’s position as the luxurious items. In short, paintings or artworks and other collectibles, possess the power to break through the unexpected borderlines of functions.
Reading the Desire
Quoting Garin Nugroho’s opinion at a seminar in ISI Yogyakarta, two years ago, that there exist two kinds of continuous art in the contemporary world: painting and pop art. Painting has its own running system, either in the marketing area or in its research area. Whereas pop art is understood more as the packaging or characteristic, meaning any arts, as long as they are under popular nuance or situation, will be accepted by many social groups. And so, we are really sure that artworks, in this case painting, have their stable history and condition. Moreover, compared to any other arts, painting possesses the ability to be accepted by many social groups.
Through this argument, we would like to emphasize that the market stability or the situation under the painting art came from the long research and history. One important point in this phenomenon is the existence of painting lovers’ desire that contributes in giving ‘life’ to the painting art. Since the beginning of the art history, painting lovers have attracted historian’s attention. The emerging of the art supporter from the noble class, rulers, governors, religious institutions, or even person in every era had given the enormous contributions.
Speaking about desire, we should also talk about the needs. The desire to have or collect can come from the needs to create the image of one’s power or position. Not less important is the desire to differentiate from others, for example, it is quite normal for people to collect things related to them. This can be seen from the existence of self-portrait, through painting as the media. The most interesting example is King Napoleon in war area in Eyland, when painted by Jean Antoine Gros in 1808, or when he wants his coronation beautifully painted by Jaques Louis David in 1804.
Desire, is also giving interesting impression to mark certain era. We can see the taste of Rococo’s painting lovers around 1700-1750s. The painting lovers “sunk” was very low, as the popular paintings at that time were naked women and the model that portrayed the free lifestyle. This was the era where the painting lover (mostly the nobles and rich men in France and Italy) loves to let loose of their lust and glamorous lifestyle, without even care of their surroundings. That is the reason why Rococo is often considered as a drawback of Renaissance. Once again, collector’s taste and desire seemed important to mark the upheaval of certain era or community. Everything is summed up through the painting collection.
About the Exhibition and the Invited Collectors
Regarding with this exhibition, if we are speaking about market and art research in Indonesia, collectors assume the important roles in the art community’s system and infrastructure. Indonesian Historian, M. Agus Burhan stated that there is no single art, wherever and whenever, that can stand still without any supporting system2. Arts is the integrated part in the era of collective-traditional society, or commonly referred as communal support, whereas in the feudal era, arts got its supports from the institutions, rulers, or often referred as the government support. In the present times, where capitalism is everywhere, the supporters of arts come from the business world or commonly referred as commercial support. Those are the collectors, gallery, and tourism.
Then, ‘what about the existence of the collectors in Indonesia? Who are they? How are they?’ Those questions then become the starting point of this work. In processing the exhibition, we asked the exhibitor candidates to answer the question, “Do you have the artworks that you really loved?” This question emphasizes the fact that when one loves his own artworks, one will not easily give that up but for collection. Thus, all the works here more or less is the private things that are regarded to imply the imaging function and also represent the owner’s taste. The acquisitions of those artworks were based on the reason of personal interest, whether representing the aesthetic taste of the owner or others. Hence, they can be considered assuming the roles as collectors, and the exhibited artworks will grant them another special meaning and status.
By putting the basis on the reason of love, personality, and artworks propinquity, this exhibition tries to be a small map of the supporting realms for arts, which consist of many different professions. Then some names are proposed. Specifically, they were invited from DIY and Central Java, for this exhibition intends to portray their efforts as the collectors living near the artists, or even closer to the centre of arts development: Yogyakarta. They came from different professional and educational background. Some of them are dr. Oei Hong Djien, Dedi Irianto, Alexander Ming, Deddy PAW, Nasirun, Butet Kertaredjasa, Bambang Soekmonohadi, Soekeno, Sugiharto Soeleman, Rahadi Saptata Abra, Simon Tan, Harsono and Siswanto HS/Hasan Berlian.
Nullifying “Seclusion”
This exhibition rolls over the attraction with two purpose. The first one is to nullify the problem of artworks seclusion. This seclusion here means the placement of artworks in the collection rooms. The terms seclusion itself came from the discourse delivered by Sanento Yuliman3 as the impact of the phenomenon of the booming of painting purchasing in the end of 80’s to 90’s. Thus, this exhibition will specifically show the artworks that have become private collections. Why private collections? As Sanento Yuliman proposed, one of the reasons that seclusion happened is the personal collector, not gallery or museum that are considerably more open.
According to Sanento, the moment after the purchasing, paintings are transformed into rich man’s secluded properties. Far from the society and the world. However, the seclusion process itself is urgent to be brought up in the forum, for it even against the slogan of “Artworks as the nation’s treasure” or the motto of “Arts for wider Society” or “Arts for People”. In the end, our minds are directed to the occurrence of the polemic of “cultural privatization through paintings”. There is no way that culture, as the right of society, will be privatized, whether done by person or corporate collectors4. And so the problem of collectors with all the efforts in the background will be interesting to research. How far has the collectors’ realized and understand these kinds of “seclusion”?
Responding to this problem, one of the exhibition participants, Butet Kertaredjasa5 argues that this is not about the “seclusion”, but the problem occurred when the artworks are put into private house. Surely the accessibility level will not be similar to those in gallery or museum. The access will be quite limited, though in one hand they can be very open and proud when their collections are borrowed by the famous museum, or to be included in the exhibition abroad, or become the cover of the books. This is also the reason serves as the underlying basis of the choosing of those works to be shown by their collectors in this exhibition. They are so responsive and respectful in accepting the suggestion, even show their collection openly.
Because of the characteristic, personal collection sometimes make the attitude towards the artworks themselves not or not yet maximal. Considering the importance of self satisfaction, most of the collectors do not employ special staff to inventory or take care of the collection. Hence, most of the time the collectors themselves are taking care and arranging their own collection. So don’t be surprised when once we find the fact that they can’t list their own collection, don’t have the time to count them yet, to another fact that the arrangement and care is so very simple.
Back to the topic, surely we cannot deny the existence of seclusion as the collectors also confess that some of their collection is so “sacred”, great, and precious, or even those they admire most, should stay at their home. Though this may not be significant, for all of the collection imply their own speciality.
Collectors’ Struggle
The second aim is to get the portrait of the collectors’ struggle in collecting every single piece of artworks. In dealing with this second purpose, the emphasis will be put over the taste, comments, and efforts as well as the collecting concept done by the collectors.
Through this small research, some purpose in collecting artworks can be unveiled. Mostly, it serves as a mere investment, then appreciation or psychological satisfaction – because of the pure interest towards arts - , or probably both. Some collectors said that they also collect other forms of arts other than 2 dimensional works (paintings), such as statue, photograph, antiques, jewelleries, etc. Though this exhibition focus only on 2 dimensional artworks, this fact gives insight that 2 dimensional works are still dominating the development of the discourse or even the market of visual arts.
Those reasons are almost mostly taken into consideration by the collector in choosing which artworks to add the collection. Besides, other considerations – if not to mention them as the absolute considerations - also involves many aspects, such as good technique / skill, aesthetic aspects, creativity, and interesting concept the artist try to convey through the works.
Those collectors also said that their collection is economically advantageous when use in the business. It means, they afford the works with the cheap way, under the normal price, in the auction, or can be resold when the price from both party is satisfying.
When asked for further reason of collecting, many arguments were proposed, starting from the close feeling to the artist, intention to economically helping certain artists, and other idealistic reasons such as family and self-appreciation as well as starting a private collection museum. The personal relationship between the collectors and the artists turns out to be one of the important considerations in owning certain works, like what Nasirun did. He is so admiring his lecturer, that he bought the works that are considered as the important points in the artist’s career.
We can also note that these collectors have already had their own favourite artists. And the impact is the privilege for the first preview of the works, in the studio, just before the works are marketed or exhibited. This is just one integrated part of the effort of building the closeness and relationship.
Differentiation of Taste
Problem about taste is also presented in this exhibition. The taste of each collector is quite represented through the artworks that they propose for this exhibition. Clearly, we have no normative reference in collecting the works, which is the best way of collecting woks, or the most profitable way to collect artworks, etc. However, we can also infer the ‘red-line’ of this taste thing when two collectors propose the artworks from the same artist, even though with different reason.
The representation of the taste is supported by one’s social background, as well as the reference and the background knowledge. Speaking about reference and the background knowledge, we can find something interesting about the development of art collectors in Indonesia. Indonesian collectors are quite aware that their role in the art infrastructure is often acknowledged. Some reviews from the art critics, articles in the media, gossips, or even the direct progress of the artists become the additional references for those collectors. They also have the awareness to help the progress of Indonesian young artists to improve their quality with their own way.
Even though we can still face some art people, whether they are collector, kolekdol [= collector but act as art dealer too], or even the artists which gives the bad image towards the system, market infrastructure, and the Indonesian art discourse, we can still put our hope to the appreciation level, study ethic, integrity, and the awareness of building a better system that most present collectors have in mind. At least, it is proven through by this exhibition.
As quoted from one young collector’s statement, Simon Tan Kian Bing6, that nevertheless the collectors should have the awareness to keep learning and trying to improve the appreciation quality, for it will bring about a great impact as well. Contrasted to the product, then the collectors are the final checks. Like the institution that will rate the worthiness of certain works to collect. If the final check is bad, then the passed artworks will also be bad. But if the final check is good, the quality of the passed works will be good instead.
Then we agree with Butet Kertaredjasa to show one of his personal collections, the work of Vincent van Gogh. This painting portrays a woman and a man, with the background of people harvesting wheat. Butet said that the work is not the original one, or only the reproduction. He deliberately bought one of the 5000 reproductions that are spread around the world with high price in 2002. Besides the interest towards the theme, he also takes the high reproduction skill presented in the works into the consideration. The skill makes every artist’s works can be copied with the scale 1:1 in the colour similarity level, line, and texture up to 90%. From this Butet’s collection, at least it will serve as the learning media of the artists regarded the classic polemic in collecting, originality.
So, if you can conclude many things from the exhibited collection, it is not impossible that our world of art will attract more discussion. Then, who is the real creator of “festivity” in our artworld? +++
Yogyakarta, May 3rd, 2007
End Notes
[1] JS. Badudu, Kamus Kata-Kata Serapan Asing dalam Bahasa Indonesia, Penerbit Kompas, Jakarta, 2003.
2 M. Agus Burhan, “Seni Rupa Modern Indonesia: Tinjauan Sosiohistoris”, dalam Adi Wicaksono dkk (ed.), Aspek-aspek Seni Visual Indonesia: Politik & Gender, Yogyakarta, Yayasan Seni Cemeti, 2003.
3 Sanento Yuliman, Boom! Kemana Seni Lukis Kita?, Makalah Sarasehan Pelukis Jawa Timur, Surabaya, 24 Agustus 1990.
4 Chin-tao Wu, Privatising Culture, Corporate Art Interention since the 1980s, London-New York, Verso, 2002.
5 Wawancara dengan Butet Kertaredjasa, 27 April 2007 di kediamannya, Yogyakarta.
6 Dialog Seni Kita/ DSK, Radio UNISI dan YSC, Yogyakarta, 8 Februari 2002.

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