The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interview with Butet Kartaredjasa, son of an Indonesian painter and a successful actor and satirist, who has become a significant collector of Indonesian art:
Son of the late Bagong Kussudiardja, a prominent Yogyakarta painter, Mr. Kartaredjasa studied art for six years before dropping out to focus on theater in 1987. However, his keen interest in the visual arts stayed with him. And over time, within the city’s close-knit artistic community, Mr. Kartaredjasa came to nurture many young artists and rescue others from oblivion. Along the way, he collected more than 200 paintings – all by Indonesian artists.
One of the actor’s favorite works is a spoof of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” which features Mr. Kartaredjasa’s own image, thanks to a bit of deft brushwork by Indonesian painter Bambang Darto.
Some of the works in Mr. Kartaredjasa’s art collection, which include sculptures and Javanese glass paintings, were bartered – he received them in exchange for opening an art exhibition with a comical flourish. He has also amassed a quirky collection of that quintessential Indonesian collectible: the kretek, or clove cigarette, pack. […]
How did you become a collector?
It was accidental. One day, the painter Lucia Hartini (born 1959) asked for my help. She was building a house, and she needed to borrow five million rupiah to pay the workmen. At that time – in 1993 – five million rupiah (then about $2,380) was all the money I had. She offered me a painting to guarantee the loan. I asked for “Srikandi,” a powerful work that she had exhibited a few months earlier, but had decided not to sell because she couldn’t bear to give it up. So we made a commitment: I would lend her the money, and if she paid me back in a month, I would return the painting. But at the end of the month she couldn’t pay, and after a year she still couldn’t pay, so finally she said, “Butet, that painting belongs to you.”
After that came Erica Hestu Wahyuni (born 1971). She had an exhibition in Japan (in 1993) and when she returned to Indonesia, the paintings were seized by customs officers, who wanted her to pay duty on them. She didn’t have the money, so she came to me. Erica was not yet well known, and her paintings were inexpensive, about 200,000 rupiah each (about $95 back then). So I bought 10 of them, and that way she had enough money to get the rest of her paintings back. But I didn’t keep them all. I also needed money, so I sold some of the paintings to friends in Jakarta who were collectors.
The Indonesian art market has undergone a recent boom. How’s the market now?
It’s cooling down a bit. I often buy paintings at local auctions these days. When the auction occurs, people only know the big names. For example, rich people who go to auctions have no idea who Bunga Jeruk (born 1972) is. I know the quality of her work, so I was able to obtain some of her paintings at a very low price. If I had bought them through a gallery, they would have been more expensive.
The Collector: Butet Kartaredjasa (Wall Street Journal)