Visit the vivid history and evolution of art at the National Gallery

Enthusiastic art lovers crowd the Indonesian National Gallery, snapping photos of the artworks and taking selfies, with the paintings as a background. (photo: IO/Aldo)

IO – The colonial occupation of Indonesia by the Dutch and the Japanese indirectly raises interest in arts among the people in those times: painting functioned as a vital medium for citizens people to comment on and critique current social conditions. A number of formal arts education institutions were established, contributing greatly by providing fresh concepts for Indonesian art. Development of the discipline was gradual, starting with the establishment of Universitaire Leergang voor de Opleiding van Tekenleraen or the ‘University Educational Institute for Drafting Teachers’ in 1947, as the ancestor of the Faculty of Arts and Design of the Bandung Institute of Technology. Among its many significant artistic contributions are historic paintings that document the struggle of the people against colonial occupation, properly displayed and lovingly maintained in the Indonesian National Gallery (Galeri Nasional Indonesia – Galnas Indonesia).

The Indonesian National Gallery is a state cultural institution that hosts artistic exhibitions and events, both Indonesian and foreign. It is a government-owned institution under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Located in Medan Merdeka Timur, the Indonesian National Gallery building was once used by the Dutch Christian foundation, Carpentier Alting Stitching (CAS), to house the first women’s boarding school in the Dutch Indies, from 1900 to 1955.

The Indonesian Government once suppressed all Dutch colonial activities, thus resulting in the Indonesian National Gallery building to change functions, under the auspices of the Raden Saleh Foundation, even though it remained in operation under the Dutch chapter of the Freemasons, Vijmetselaren Lorge. A total ban on all functions was only executed in 1962 on direct orders from the top: President Sukarno himself ordered the dissolution of the Raden Saleh Foundation and the transfer of all of its possessions in the building to the Ministry of Culture and Education.

This was the turbulent start of the national-level gallery, which was established as the Wisma Seni Nasional (National Arts Hall) or the National Cultural Development Centre. In 1987, the Minister of Culture and Education, Prof. Dr. Fuad Hasan, redesigned the building to serve as the Arts Exhibition Hall of the Department of Culture and Education. The struggle to develop and change the name to the ‘Indonesian National Gallery’ only started with Prof. Edi Sedyawati in 1995, finally securing approval from the Coordinating Minister for the Monitoring of Development and Utilization of State Apparatus in 1998. In its chequered administrative past, the National Gallery was even managed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism before it reverted to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The Indonesian National Gallery is home to some of the finest artistic works of both the nation and foreign countries. The general public may enjoy the best collection to be found in Indonesian National Gallery through its permanent exhibition, which has been ongoing since 2015. This exhibition is realized through new concepts that constantly rearrange artworks and space, so that the entirety becomes more informative for and interactive with visitors. Divided into two sections, the Indonesian National Gallery permanent exhibition takes you on a trip across Indonesia’s artistic history: from the initial era of modern art in Indonesia, the Mooi Indie era, Persagi, art guilds, up to the era of contemporary art expression.

The Permanent Exhibition of Indonesian National Gallery collection showcases works from various types of arts: paintings, graphic arts, sculptures, installations, videos, to media arts. In this exhibition, ‘art’ is shown to be more than just sounds and pictorial forms. With its various media on display, art becomes a means for the visitors to know, understand, and love the works of their own national culture. The Indonesian National Gallery Permanent Exhibition exhibits 114 permanent works collected by the State. Most are the works of famed maestros and artists, such as Raden Saleh, Affandi, Basoeki, and others.

A major exhibition that catches the eye is an entire hall showcasing the works of Raden Saleh Sjarif Bustaman. He was known as a multi-talented portraitist, landscape artist, and wildlife painter, as well as an innovator in the history of Indonesian painting. He apprenticed himself to A.A.J. Payen, the famous Belgian painter, travelled the world, and resided in the Netherlands from 1829-1839. He moved to Germany in 1843-1848 and returned to his homeland in Java in 1852, making his home in Bogor until his death in 1880. In this hall, you can see samples of his great works: Storm-tossed Ship (1852), Portrait of Adolphe Jean Phillipe Hubert Desire Bosch 1814-1873 (1867), and a reproduction of his 1856 masterpiece, The Capture of Prince Diponegoro.

Throughout 2017, the Indonesian National Gallery was visited by more than 250,000 art lovers, 9.8% over the number of visitors in 2016, at 230,000.

‘As of 1 December 2017, we recorded 254,403 people passing through the National Gallery, of all ages and backgrounds: artists, critics, art lovers, government officials, scholars, college students, school children, media workers, entrepreneurs, collectors, to ordinary members of the public interested in the arts,’ commented a staff member of the Indonesian National Gallery. The Indonesian National Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday (except for national holidays) from 09.00 – 16.00 WIB at Building B, 2nd floor, and admittance is free. (Aldo)