Unconventional art fairs to revisit

Unconventional art fairs to revisit
Peace Can Be Realised Even Without Order, the digital diorama by teamLab from Japan is on show at the Singapore Art Museum.

I started my recent three-week holiday by booking a ticket to Yogyakarta for an art fair.

Indonesian artists, collectors and curators had all mentioned ArtJog to me at various points - in conversations, during interviews, as passing comments. Most recently, leading Indonesian contemporary artists Jumaldi Alfi and Entang Wiharso suggested a quick weekend holiday to see what sets the art fair apart from others.

It was time to take the short flight to find out for myself, since the fair is not as widely covered outside Indonesia as other visual arts events in the region.

ArtJog, which ran from June 7 to 29 and is now into its seventh edition, surprised me with strong, cutting-edge artworks created in response to the politically charged theme - Legacies Of Power: (Re-)Defining Democracy In Indonesia.

The opening was something I had never experienced before. With crowds packing the grounds in and around Taman Budaya, it felt more like a rock concert than the opening of a visual arts event. In fact, in the seven years I have covered the visual arts beat, I have never experienced anything on this scale in any of the countries I have visited. I had to call my driver back to help get me to the front of the building where the official ceremony was taking place.

Once inside the building, I encountered a fascinating sales model that clearly shuns the traditional "artist meets curator meets gallery and finds collector" model, on which much of the art market runs.

The focus at ArtJog is on the artists and, interestingly enough, quite unlike other art fairs, artists are allowed to sell directly to collectors with fair organisers taking a commission that goes towards covering the costs of running the fair.

This unconventional model also resulted in unconventional presentations.

At other fairs, such as Art Stage Singapore and the India Art Fair in Delhi, galleries rent booths and display works within their confines. ArtJog, however, faced no such limitations. There were museum-like, open-ended displays and installations as well as several large-scale works on display.

This year's fair clearly focused on developments within Indonesia - an emerging powerhouse in contemporary art - and this clear country focus helped.

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