Advocacy, networks, and communities: Private arts platforms in Australia and Indonesia

Caitlin Hughes asls what are the motivations that underpin the private arts sectors in Australia and Indonesia, how are they similar and different, and how are key players using their platforms to promote advocacy, exchange, and connections?

From the hospitality and tourism sectors to the art market and foundations, private arts partnerships in Indonesia and Australia have played a critical role in driving innovation, and providing opportunities for artists, arts professionals and the public to develop closer connections between the two countries.

The third session of Santy Saptari Art Consulting and Asialink Arts’ four-part conversation series, Dekat-Dekat Jauh (So Close Yet So Far) brought together leaders in the private arts sector of Indonesia and Australia. Representing private galleries, art hotels, arts foundations and fairs, the panellists shared insights into how they work within the private arts sector, and the key objectives of their platforms.

A thread that weaved through the conversation was particularly insightful and revealing, as the panellists were asked about the key motivations that underpin their work and their platforms. Although, of course, the art market plays a critical role in driving objectives and meeting targets, the panellists saw their roles connected too to advocacy, to mentoring, to connecting people to new art and cultural experiences, and promoting local art; in the process, creating conversations and ongoing exchanges with artists.

Central to the discussion was the idea that art can facilitate connections in many different ways. Konfir Kabo (Project 11 Foundation) commented that ‘art can bring people together’; allowing for opportunities to ‘grow together’ and promote new experiences and understandings. The various initiatives that he has undertaken were done so to promote an understanding of Indonesia to Australian audiences beyond a Bali-centric view. The importance of community-building was echoed too by Erastus Radjimin (Artotel Group), through the mission of his art hotels as being to ‘introduce art to society’, and create a platform to share local art beyond a gallery setting. As hotels are ‘melting pots’ for people from a wide range of backgrounds, countries and cultures, these spaces provide an opportunity for visitors to engage with art – especially those who are not usually inclined to visit the museum as they travel.

In these processes of promoting, network-building and sharing comes a need for advocacy and support. As Margaret Moore (Moore Contemporary) commented, she sees advocacy and mediating as key to her position; but remarked too that there is a clear relationship between her role as an advocate and mentor, and her business responsibilities too. ‘People can be cynical [about the business side to private arts platforms]. but it does sustain the livelihoods of so many artists’, she argued. Indeed, the processes involved in private collecting, commissioning and representing are a significant component for sustaining employment in the broader arts and cultural ecosystems.

Despite the potentials and diverse possibilities that private arts platforms can offer, Tom Tandio (Art Jakarta) noted that Australian artists and galleries are not reaching out to art fairs in Southeast Asian markets as often as they could be. This is despite the Art Jakarta art fair comprising of a split where 45% of artists showcased are from Indonesia, and the remaining 55% are from overseas.

Perhaps promoting new opportunities for Australian artists and galleries to partake in Indonesian art fairs (and vice versa) could be a way to facilitate new exchanges. As the discussion revealed, much of the ongoing work by the panellists in this space has been centred on developing and advocating for stronger partnerships between Indonesia and Australia. The question now should be, how can we amplify this advocacy, and offer further possibilities for partnerships?