Guest Author of October 2009
Our guest author for October is eminent Asian art expert Patrick D. Flores, Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the University of the Philippines at Diliman and curator at the National Art Gallery of the Philippine National Museum in Manila. As an independent curator, he has organized several internationally shown exhibitions, including “Under Construction: New Dimensions of Asian Art” at the Japan Foundation and the “Position Papers” section of the Gwangju Biennale 2008. He has been involved in the GAM project during the 2009 conference in Hong Kong and the Summer Seminar in June ’09. His essay on the top-selling Indonesian painter Masriadi is an in-depth case study on an artist relying strongly on the secondary art market, as opposed to the conventional means of building an artist’s career. Masriadi’s case not only shows the direction the art market might take in Asia – and globally –, but also leads us to questions regarding the scope of influence of auctions and auction houses – an influence that extends far beyond the economic aspect of art and touches elemental issues like the choice of genre, technique and, ultimately, the means by which art criticism itself is involved.
The Masriadi Effect: Skill, Sensibility, Scale
An impressive house framed against the lush flora of Jogjakarta, set apart by a high wall from a rice field, stands as a testament to an artist’s place in the social world of Indonesian art. One could be simple-minded about it and say that it is an unmistakable index of wealth, which has accrued to the career of a painter and invested him with both social capital and formidable fortune. But one may also question this reduction and find out how the artist thinks of this image, which he, in fact, resents. This paper attempts to understand how the seemingly impersonal workings of economy in an affective industry like contemporary art relate to the local moral world1 of those who make it, at once self-consciously and prompted by the need to make it for those who have desire for it. It is keen on the tension between a personal sphere of values, of what it takes to be an artist, and the structure of an art world that obliges artists to assume a certain personage and to be responsive to issues to which art must supposedly respond as an imperative of contemporaneity.
The artist to be discussed is I Nyoman Masriadi, born in 1973 in Gianyar, Balinese by birth and currently a resident of Jogjakarta. He is chosen to exemplify a tendency in the current condition of contemporary art in Southeast Asia. Masriadi’s emergence as the region’s most expensive artist in the international auction circuit and the youngest to be honored with a quasi-retrospective at the Singapore Art Museum, repository of the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia in the world, is worth not only noting but also probing.
Just like any other artist in Indonesia, when Masriadi graduated from a government-run art high school in Denpasar in Bali, he may have thought of linking himself up with the system of contemporary art by going to either the Bandung Institute of Technology or the Indonesian Institute of Art in Jogjakarta (ISI). Bandung and Jogjakarta represent superficially opposite dispositions in art making in Indonesia. Literature on Indonesian art history posits that Bandung represents the modern temper while Jogjakarta, the social realist and political persuasion. More recent theory, specifically by Jim Supangkat, has transcended this antinomy by invoking the discourse of kagunan, an ethical category of art that does not necessarily lead to progress, advancement, or the avant-garde; rather it brings to bear the requisites of dignity and emancipation2.
Masriadi chose to enroll at ISI in 1993. He mingled with fellow Balinese artists in Sanggar Dewata, the sanggar being the nucleus of both peer-to-peer contact and apprenticeship with senior artists in Indonesia, and exhibited with them. But, on the other hand, he also worked with the Cemeti Art House, which was at that time the main platform of contemporary art and the prime destination of international curators in search of artists in the country. It is claimed that Masriadi was the first member of the Sanggar Dewata, seen as a conservative coterie, to work with what was viewed as the more progressive and contemporary cohort at Cemeti.
The regimen of art education at ISI was not strict. It was an informal set-up in which students learned from how their teachers did things and from conversations among friends outside the classroom. The sanggar system helped facilitate this interaction among students and may well have been the spine of the artistic formation. Masriadi’s generation yielded artists who had done well beyond ISI, like the Kelompok Jendela (Jumaldi Alfi, Handiwirman Saputra, Rudi Mantofani, Yunizar, Yusra Martunus), Apotik Komik (Samuel Indratma, Popok Tri Wahyudi, Arie Dyanto, Bambang Toko Witjaksono), and even the highly politicized Taring Padi.
Masriadi’s first exhibitions were with the Sanggar Dewata during his student years in Jogjakarta. His works caught the eye of Mella Jaarsma of Cemeti, which organized two exhibitions in 1999 with him included: one a group exhibition titled Knalpot and the other, an exhibition with a fellow artist from Bali, the late I. G. K. Murniashih. In the same year, he was in the Jogjakarta Biennale and his works were presented outside Indonesia with a project in the Netherlands. In 2001, his works went to Moscow. In 2002, his first mainstream exhibition was held at the Widayat Gallery in Magelang. In the same year, a work was auctioned in Jakarta and he exhibited twice at Edwin’s Gallery. His first institutional acknowledgement came in 2002 by way of the first-ever exhibition of art from Southeast Asian countries in Europe; organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), 36 Ideas from Asia opened in Germany and then traveled to Austria and Italy. 2008 was his banner year in Singapore, having been part of the Strategies Towards the Real: S. Sudjojono and Contemporary Indonesian Art exhibition at the National University of Singapore Museum and the retrospective Masriadi: Black is My Weapon at the Singapore Art Museum.
Dealers caught up with Masriadi after his studies in Jogjakarta, and he cast his lot with several in succession. First it was Edy Jun and then Edwin’s Gallery, until he finally sought exclusive management under Gajah Gallery in Singapore in 2007, with Jasdeep Sandhu as gallerist. Sandhu confides that he started to specialize in Indonesian art in 2002 when Indonesian galleries seemingly looked to Chinese contemporary art for investment. Much of Masriadi’s achievements in the market in recent time are owed to Gajah’s efforts to discipline the circulation of his works as well as to foster scholarly attention to it. It fully subsidized the Singapore Art Museum exhibition and has commissioned the esteemed art historian Kanaga Sabapathy to prepare a manuscript on Masriadi.
Market ValidationThe validation of Masriadi by way of critical recognition in text has not been extensive. The more significant commentary on him has come from the curator and academic Dwi Marianto, one of Masriadi’s professors at ISI. It was the validation at the auction market that led the art world to look at Masriadi in a different way. Yu Jin Seng, one of the curators of the exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum in 2008, believes that the museum “comes into the picture to close the gap between a previously market-led initiative on Masriadi to a scholarship- and exhibition-initiated effort … it is certainly unwise to leave the shaping of contemporary art solely to galleries and auction houses where profit is the primary motivation.”3 He and co-curator Zineng Wang would reflect on their role “as the makers of this exhibition with the two questions … of representation and value.”4 This reflexivity did not deter some art-world players to criticize it as collector-driven; one Indonesian curator even considered it a “scandal.” Still, in spite of this rebuke, the curators in Singapore felt that Masriadi deserved the space and the stature because his works manifest a “consistently high quality.” In his decade of practice, Masriadi must have done around 200 works, 32 of which were at the Singapore Art Museum event. All of these were borrowed from collectors; Masriadi did not want to make new works.
In terms of auction history, an early entry would be the work Weekend, auctioned at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2005 that sold for HKD 168,000, way beyond the HKD 32,000-48,000 estimate. His most expensive work Man From Bantul was bought in 2008 for HKD 7.8 million or around USD 1 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, an unprecedented figure in the Southeast Asian art scene. In 2009, a time of great economic difficulty, his triptych Nose Piercing/Experiment/I Love Elvis had a hammer price of 193,000 USD. It must be pointed out that the data management outfit Artprice reported in 2008 that Masriadi registered the greatest leap in rank among Asian artists by stepping up 418 places to be ranked 41st in the world and 23rd in Asia, with auction sales turnover of 3 million Euros, 41 lots sold, and top hammer price of 282,000 Euros5. This performance in the market is, however, inversely proportional to his exhibition experience in various platforms as well as in biennales of contemporary art.Wang Zineng offers a rough analysis of the auction data. Findings include:
- The achieving top prices at auctions have tended to be works produced from 2007 to 2009 though earlier works like The Man From Bantul (The Final Round) (1999), Marathon (1999) and Nose Piercing/Experiment/I Love Elvis (1999) have clinched highest prices in recent seasons of Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions.
- Records of prices of works of Masriadi at auction hardly indicate it to be a mature market. Because the apparent popularity of his works reflected through astronomical price increases has taken place over such a short time, it has proved exception to certain tendencies, for example, works which are bought and quickly flipped over in auction (see Es krim & minuman berenergi (Ice cream and energy drink) (2005) and Weekend (1999)) have seen profit for vendor instead of loss – the latter should be the case in a mature market where buyers are discerning of the nature of the property. The market is still in a volatile state of evolution and the art market downturn is definitely a key factor to play in the continuing evolution of prices for Masriadi’s works at auction6.
- Quantity of works surfacing in auction market increased significantly in 2007 and 2008, with auction houses complicit in flooding the market and providing a supply that has the potential to exhaust the artist’s market too quickly.
- The average price per work decreased with effect from November 2008 onwards, most likely as a part of market glut, but also coinciding with a global slowdown of the art market.
- Average estimates on works have risen 10 times within a short span of 4 years, or about 8 seasons of auctions in the Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art section. This is an extraordinary development and is exemplary of the seemingly infinite potential and ascendency of contemporary art within the global art market. This phenomenon is puzzling because it goes against economic fundamentals. Contemporary art is a category where supply is increasing and not dwindling by the nature of it from a market definition – art of the now, ever encompassing of new works and practitioners. Masriadi’s art works will continue to appear at the market since he is an artist living and working in the now. Supply is therefore by definition not limited unlike the works of a dead modern artist. If price appreciation is not due to a limited supply, what then is it based upon?
The idea of a limited supply and its basis is contentious: we could argue that this scarcity is actually controlled by a singular source and therefore significantly constricts the primary market for Masriadi. This gives credence to the impression that it is only through the auctions that works of Masriadi could be obtained. Wang elaborates: “And because of this belief, very few people trade privately, too. They would rather place a Masriadi at auction, be it a strong or inferior piece in an approximately stronger or weaker auction house, and expose the work to the widest set of possible buyers than to limit their chances to a few individuals within their network. But that said, the talk of the market is that Man From Bantul (Final Round) was placed in auction by an individual who had only recently acquired the work by offering the long-time owner of the piece an attractive price which the latter could not refuse.”7 It could also be that there is, in fact, increasing worldwide interest in Masriadi’s works.
The supply line of Masriadi, therefore, is nearly exclusive as far as new works are concerned. This means that all new works, beginning in 2007, would come from one source. But Wang points out that these new works sold to collectors by the said source have not circulated yet. Only old works, since 1997, move in the free market and constitute typical supply of a living artist. Gajah Gallery reasons that this is the case because it has been careful in placing the works in the right hands, meaning out of the reach of speculators.
DiscourseDiscourse on Masriadi, mainly because of the Singapore Art Museum intervention, has assumed a certain critical framework.
First, it has been organized along art-historical lines of thematic rubrics. At the Singapore Art Museum, the exhibition moved along four phases, cued by quotations from Masriadi, titles of his work, or texts in his paintings:
- Black Is My Last Weapon in which black figures are placed in chronological order; “black is color that symbolizes strength and beauty.”
- Fighting to Paint in which a self-consciousness about the art world is presented and painting is upheld in the face of other forms of contemporary art like installation
- Tickled in which wit and humor engage the audience
- I Got It in which the play of power in sports and gaming is discusses According to Masriadi, his career could be marked by the following turning points: the end of the Jogjakarta period in 1998; experimentation commencing in 1997 when he returned to Bali; a more confident language and more personal or textured work in 2000; and further refinement of the aesthetic in 2004. It will be noted that there was almost radical change from his early works to those made in 1999, which were tentative explorations of expressionism. The latter would be entirely replaced by a self-assured stroke and style. There was also appreciable expansion of the visual field and definitely an alacrity that was confrontational, insolent, iconoclastic.
With this art-historical distance, observers may be able to perceive shifts and the underlying reasons for this shift. For instance, Yu Jin Seng thinks that there had been changes in Masriadi’s style as soon as market forces came in: “His critique of the military and corrupt capitalists depicted through an emotional explosion of motifs and symbols was extraneous to the market. Masriadi’s later works that became extremely finished … offered developments in technique and concept but concomitantly shaped by the market in its figurative turn and obsession with technical excellence.”8 The latter may be appraised as a foil to the erstwhile strident criticism of violence and corruption, with a look that was “raw, mechanical, even sinister.”9 It must be said, however, that Masriadi’s price took off only in 2007 and the drift towards refinement was consistent all throughout his career. This suggestion of the “mechanical” may confirm that Masriadi’s forms are reminiscent of Fernand Leger, whose painting is marked by a telling metallic surface similar to the sheen of Masriadi that is ever-present even in his delineation of flesh. Moreover, Leger’s fascination with urban life and such subjects as “cyclists, picknickers, acrobats, swimmers divers, building workers” tends to dovetail with Masriadi’s own obsessions. All this might, in the words of John Berger, testify to “mechanization as a human epic, an unfolding adventure of which man is the hero.”10 It is not only heroism that is at stake here, though, but also a sense of being human. Arthur Danto agrees: “Leger was playing the role of the clown, sacrificing his dignity in order to enhance the well-being of others.”11 Masriadi sometimes makes us feel that he is in some kind of race for supremacy and he delights in coming out ahead as if to reprove those who think he is not contemporary enough and is not of this age and zeitgeist.
Second, the style of the Masriadi oeuvre has been evaluated for its characteristics. There is reference to the rudiments of fine drawing that cohere with a “strong visual memory.” This may form the core of cogent figuration and the ability to portray expression. And this is important because the artist thrives in exaggeration and distortion to shape ludic attributes as well as satirical everyday narratives, specifically on the folly of provincial taste, the pretensions of the nouveau riche or country people dazzled by city lights. This deformation is part of an allegorical syntax in Indonesian painting, considering that the foremost colonial painter Raden Saleh would warp the image of a Dutch official in a picture that pays tribute to the nobility of an Indonesian revolutionary at the moment of his arrest. The mixture of metaphor and effusive expressive quality serves Masriadi in very good stead.
As the critic-curator Dwi Marianto explains: “Masriadi caricaturizes scenes by exaggerating the anatomy, muscular structure, facial expression, and gestures of his figures to bring out their essential character.”12 On the other hand, there is an impression that the strongly wrought painting is not sufficient in itself, thus the penchant to decorate and to resort to a certain kind of ornamentation through texts and scribbling on the highly finessed surface, something that might have been encouraged by collectors13, although it must be stated that Masriadi had already integrated doodles into his works as early as 1999. Commentators point out that Masriadi’s talent lies in his capacity to elevate minutiae into monumental folly, scrounging morsels from stray conversation and happenstance and dishing them out as a feast of commentary. This largely pivots on an ambivalent narrative that is contingent on the comics format, with thought balloons and bubbles containing dialogue, a means to convey an askance look at a potentially preposterous situation but without being directly confrontational.
The relatively polished style in some of his paintings may be attributed to the influence of his father, a sculptor who worked in ebony wood. Moreover, it could be part of a “painstaking” realism that an exhibition on Indonesian art has raised, one that proceeds from the modernism of Sudjojono and springs into the current mediascape. The Japanese scholar and curator Masahiro Ushiroshoji has an astute way of drawing the nexus, taking the hint from Jim Supangkat, between the reality that was foregrounded as a post-colonial critique of Dutch idealization of the Indies and the depoliticization of the image during the Suharto regime and after the bloody Communist purge in the sixties: “Henceforth, politics and socialism have disappeared from the surface and gone underground. However, on the other side, we may say that painstaking realism shows a dream of an ancient city, Yogyakarta. The city has a dream: developing a new culture for the new nation, Indonesia.”14 This allusion to what could be a Balinese “unseen world” and the anticipation of the new within the Javanese discourse and politics of realism may be key in understanding Masriadi in the longer duration.
Finally, the corpus has been politicized and its politics analyzed within a wide frame of reference. This aspect mainly lingers on remarks on corruption in society and in particular on art-world politics. Pervading here is a cynicism that in the end has been thought to be “cool” and in fact appealing to the market that is the object of putative contempt. A facet of this critique homes in on vanity, a hypermasculinity that is deflated through insinuations of feminine or effeminate characteristics, which are juxtaposed with remarkable musculature. Here, reference to blackness in terms of color and physiognomy is prominent, perhaps in keeping with Masriadi’s belief that black is strong and bold and black people do not cry. It must be said that the “political” orientation of Masriadi would at the outset govern the stance towards his work by art historians and curators. For instance, Helena Spanjaard remarks on Experiment as a “criticism of genetic manipulations,” and on Invasion by the Clowns of Time as a take on the “situation of forgery in the art world.”15 For their part, Dwi Marianto and Joanna Lee in a description of Awaking Kumbakarna state that the main figure, a minor character in the Ramayana, “is invoked for symbolic commentary on the state of political ambivalence in Indonesia in the immediate post-Suharto years.”16 These instances of validation in the market and in the museum speak significantly both of Masriadi and the said institutions, and advance certain issues that deserve to be analyzed more closely.
First is the notion of skill that is cherished as a foundational trait of talent and caliber. This skill is often contrasted with concept and content and reified as sheer virtuosity without regard for intellection. This is relevant in the discussion of contemporary art as basically conceptualist, a form that emerges from language and tends to dismiss a particular type of painting that is not about itself. At least, this is how Masriadi feels as he defends painting as an acceptable species of contemporary art. It is as if his work did not have its self-reflexive qualities as well.
Furthermore, in his case, skill may be, besides being the vessel of depiction, an artisanal devotion, harnessed for its own potency. Such virtue or aspiration demands a particular rhythm of labor, a different kind of time so that a work could be completed with a sense of fulfillment. And here, skill matters in the production of the art because the artist is deterred from addressing the requirements of the gallery system to make exhibitions on a regular basis. It would take a year or even more, for instance, for Masriadi, who produces ten paintings a year, to gather enough pieces for an exhibition. This is the pretext for his almost natural suitability to a secondary market like the auction, which in this situation synthetically creates the “primary” market because it is only through it that Masriadi is sold. A leading curator and critic in Indonesia feels that the Masriadi market is a closed one, practically a monopoly; it bypasses traditional channels of distribution but at the same time entrenches a protectionist mode that undermines free-market mechanisms. To characterize the primary market as “free” or “rational,” however, is debatable: gallerists play politics, too, and can opt to sell to select clients; auctions behave more democratically therefore. Having said this, there is intense investment in a few artists like Masriadi whose prices are kept high by Indonesian collectors themselves who patronize the auctions and who parlay capital into it from tobacco, tourism, and real estate. As a Korean academic puts it: “As the extremely margin-acquisitive or speculative capitalism advances, a minority of overestimated super stars and the system securing high yields are justified, influencing the way that the whole field is organized and operated.”17
Bracketing off the market for a while, we may benefit from another view of Masriadi, guided by a somewhat mystical approach to art making. He declares that “the problem with painting is that it has to come from the inside … When working it should be…from the heart, but not a matter of mood.”18 This may be easily dismissed as romantic; but it could also be regarded as indicative of an ethical norm. Corollarily, Masriadi speaks of bosan, roughly translated as ennui and restlessness, as a motivation in making art, a self-deprecating mindset on the foibles of the art world. In this logic of practice, the purposive, alienating labor of making art gives way to a sense of killing time as a mode of production or ethos, which curiously also effects distance between the artist and the art world in which he moves: “Bosan conveys a sense of being part of the art world while still striving to maintain a position – a distance – from it. It follows that one cannot be disengaged to be Bosan as one has to be critically aware of the artistic, social and political conditions that one is part of.”19 It, is on the other hand, related to Masriadi’s stylization of form, a deformation that is an allusion to the insecurity and impotence of those who try too hard to overinvest in being men or being women, in being rich or being powerful, and maybe even in being makers of art.
The Chinese critic and historian Li Xianting’s appraisal of Fang Lijun could be a useful intertext in this discussion; he locates him as “the most important representative of the Post ’89 New Wave Art in China, and of the unique mode of discourse collectively created by the artists who constitute this way – Cynical Realism, a psychological term for the philosophical mix of emotional ennui and rogue humor that pervaded Chinese society in the first half of the 1990s.” By rogue humor he means a gamut of notions related to “joking, roisterousness, untrammeled behavior, lack of restraint, indifference, and the ability to see through everything.” It is uncanny that Masriadi’s bosan strikes a chord in Li’s estimation of cynical realism and in Sinologist John Minford’s theory of the liumang, a term for a culture that emerged in post-Mao China to reference the “loafer, hoodlum, hobo, bum and punk.”20 Masriadi’s uneasy relationship with a post-Suharto Indonesian society and a post-Asian financial crisis scenario could be instructive in this respect, a period of intense politicization as well as intense commodification of art in Indonesia.
Second, in relation to skill, is the scale that the artist favors. For Masriadi, the large format (averaging 150-200 cm) enables him to demonstrate his mettle and to play out a narrative. Scale, however, does not only pertain to dimension, but also to the outlook of the figure or ground within the painting. We notice that Masriadi privileges a monumental approach to form making, be it in the conception of the body or the evocation of a landscape. This intersects with the scale of much of the Chinese art that circulated when it reached its peak; not only were these works gargantuan, the portrayals within them were overwhelming as well. Moreover, scale becomes an ideal platform to carry out exaggeration. To some extent, Masriadi’s sense of scale converses with the ways in which other Asian contemporary artists respond to the monument in the production of the body. The Thai Thaweesak Srithongdee, Filipino Ronald Ventura, and Japanese Takashi Murakami all limn the body in its fulsome state, overexplaining its cogency as a source of force and energy. In this regard, a conversation with Murakami’s superflat aesthetic and his success in the market might be productive. The Japanese art historian Tanaka Masayuki locates Murakami’s art within the politics of the decorative and thinks that it is a closed discourse governed by a sense of an exclusive, originary, exceptional Japanese sensibility, an idea that is not without its allure in the commerce of global pictures21. We may insert Masriadi in this exchange by identifying a degree of flatness evident in his work, its particularity as a painting from Indonesia, and to the extent that Murakami relates with the obsessive otaku culture in Japan, his avid fascination with gaming, which preoccupies him nearly half of the day. Much of Masriadi’s figuration may be referenced through the realism of the gaming culture, its sense of competition and adrenalin rush, its narcotic hold, the speed, and the thrill. Furthermore, Murakami’s conflation of art and entertainment is crucial in positioning a populist posture against the elitism of art and the primacy of the amateur, the hobbyist, the enthusiast, the devotee, in short, the otaku22.
Finally, Masriadi’s sensibility as an artist who wants to prove himself as foremost in the scene corresponds to his attitude towards scale and skill. His sensitivity towards adverse criticism of his standing in the Indonesian art world also sheds light on how he covets public acceptance as his art world’s standard and projects a seemingly “eccentric” personality in the face of disapprobation. This sensibility may also have to do with a feeling of entitlement as an uncommon, singular personage within social relations and hierarchies. He has expressed in an interview that he wishes to be Indonesia’s “number one” painter. This consciousness leads him to reflect on his own station as an artist in the work Reunion that presents critics talking about him and his work. This becomes part of his defense of painting as contemporary art and not merely a commercial pursuit nor the diametrical opposite of installation and performance. It has been pointed out that Masriadi was not comfortable in the company of “contemporary” artists at Cemeti, which were au courant with the art discourse of global art.
These concerns afford us a significant view of certain aspects of contemporary art in Indonesia like the market of speculation, amid local and international auction houses and a history of local/international biennales, and how art is produced within the cycle of buying and selling. The phenomenon of flipping or in the parlance of the scene, goreng-goreng, or refrying, merits study. This is further complicated by the role of the curator as an agent of innovation as well as a vector in the traffic of commodities. Here the lines between the state and the market, the public sphere and the neoliberal economy are porous and relationships among players are almost makeshift. The curator, in particular, is exceptional because he or she takes on a myriad of roles in this contingent context: critic, historian, impresario, ideologue, polemicist, talent scout, biennale maker, and so on.
In light of all this, what might be neglected is the materiality or thinginess of the art: what sort of thing is it? We can say that the object of art circulating in this flux is a particular category of object, one that is demonstrative of a quality, a term that has eluded convenient and confident definition in contemporary art. We can even ask about the salience of “quality” in the discernment of contemporary art and if it presupposes a formalist approach to artness. In the case of Masriadi’s art, the quality may reside in a kind of realism that as mentioned earlier can be described as “painstaking.” This predilection lends well to the portrayal of an otherworldly effect that is at the same time visceral as a sensation of the day’s news, the editorial cartoon, and gaming.
Finally, Masriadi’s practice may take us to the local moral worlds of artists, to an agency that belongs to the artist and the art and the entire ecology of entitlements that creates value and contentment. In this setting, skill, scale, and sensibility may come together under, in reference to the anthropologist Alfred Gell, the technology of enchantment in which the art work transcends the “technical schemas” and “normal sense of self-possession” of the spectator. Masriadi’s travail as an artist so overwhelms that it captivates whoever beholds before it, “one might even say ‘interpellates’ … not by masking the labor, but by displaying it.”23
These are initial thoughts on aspects of the milieu of contemporary art in Southeast Asia, skewed in relation to the market and its ascendancy. In search of methods to crack the codes of this market, we are led to believe what has been broached that art history in this time is a market art history of which there seems to be no “outside.” Still, while a history of global art could be contemplated, to think of a global method of art history may not be productive. Nevertheless, Masriadi embeds himself in a double reading: a contemporary art that excludes him and a market that cannot resist him.
(Prepared for the Global Art and Museum workshop in Bad Homburg and Karlsruhe, June-July 2009. This draft benefited from indispensable comments and insights from Seng Yu Jin and Wang Zineng. Gajah Gallery is highly appreciated as well.)
1 I borrow this phrase from the work of Arthur Kleinman.
2 Jim Supangkat. 1997. “The Emergence of Indonesian Modern Art.” The Birth of Modern Art in Southeast Asia: Artists and Movements. Fukuoka: Fukuoka Art Museum.
3 Seng Yu Jin, interview with the author, 2008.
4 Seng Yu Jin and Wang Zineng. 2008. “Curatorial Essay.” Masriadi: Black Is My Last Weapon. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, p. 105.
5 “Top 100 Asian Artists: Special Feature.” Art in Asia. Jan-Feb 2009. No. 9.
6 Wang Zineng. Interview with the author, 2009.
7 Wang Zineng. Interview with the author, 2009.
8 Seng Yu Jin. Interview with the author, 2008.
9 Seng Yu Jin. Interview with the author, 2008.
10 Berger, John. 2001. “Fernand Leger.” John Berger: Selected Essays. Ed. Geoff Dyer. New York: Pantheon Books, pp. 197-198.
11 Danto, Arthur. 2000. “Fernand Leger.” The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, p. 302.
12 Marianto, Dwi. 2008. “Masriadi the Winner.” Masriadi: Black Is My Last Weapon. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, p. 13.
13 Seng Yu Jin. Interview with the author, 2009.
14 Masahiro Ushiroshoji. 1997. “Foreword.” The Mutation: Painstaking Realism in Indonesian Contemporary Painting. Tokyo: Japan Foundation Asia Center, p. 28.
15 Spanjaard, Helena. 2004. Exploring Modern Indonesian Art: The Collection of Dr. Oei Hong Djien. Sinagpore: SNP International, p. 113.
16 Marianto, Dwi and Lee, Joanna. 2002. “I Nyoman Masriadi.” 36 Ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art. Jakarta: ASEAN-COCI, p. 60.
17 Sin San Yong, 2008. “Going Beyond the ‘Growth’ Discourse of Art in the Age of Neo-Liberalism.” Bol 010, p. 257.
18 Marianto 2008, p. 62.
19 Marianto 2008, pp. 46-47.
20 Li Xianting. 1996. “Fang Lijun and Cynical Realism.” Fang Lijun: Human Images in an Uncertain Age. Tokyo: Japan Foundation Asian Center, p. 79.
21 Tanaka Masayuki. 2008. “The Politics of the ‘Decorative.’” Count 10 Before You Say Asia: Asian Art After Postmodernism. Tokyo: Japan Foundation.
22 Sawaragi Noi. 2008. “Neo-Pop and the Origin of ‘Japanese Contemporary Art.” Bol 010. Otaku refers to individuals with obsessive interests particularly anime, manga, and video games.
23 Rampley, Matthew. 2005. “Art History and Cultural Difference: Alfred Gell’s Anthropology of Art.” Art History. 28: 4.