Bringing art within the reach of the people is the goal of Fenessa Adikoesoemo, Chairwoman of Museum MACAN Foundation. “As we are a very diverse nation, the challenge was to figure out ways to be accessible to the public in general,” she tells Ajeng G. Anindita.
“Art has been a part of my life since my early years,” says 26-year-old Fenessa Adikoesoemo. “Growing up with a collector father (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara founder Haryanto Adikoesoemo) means being acquainted with art museums, exhibitions and auctions on a regular basis. Art is also an integral part of the family home. I grew to love art from those valuable experiences. As of now, I work with art as a professional, and I also enjoy it on a personal level.”
Since Prestige met with Fenessa last year, she has been as busy as ever in her roles as a Director at AKR Land and Chairwoman of the Museum MACAN Foundation. She went to high school in Melbourne and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Melbourne. She began working at AKR Land Development in 2014.
Fenessa says Museum MACAN’s mission is to provide public access to a significant and growing collection of modern and contemporary art from Indonesia and around the world. The museum has an active programme of exhibitions and events in a 7,100 square metre facility, including on-site education and conservation spaces.
“Dedicated to supporting interdisciplinary education and cultural exchange, the institution offers a wide variety of public programmes and a dynamic exhibition schedule. As part of its mission, the museum will be an important platform for local and international artists to present their work to a global audience, and will commission new works by artists that broaden perspectives on contemporary art in and beyond Indonesia. Museum MACAN will also offer professional development opportunities for artists, curators, and other arts-focused young professionals to help build upon the energy of Indonesia’s vibrant arts ecology.”
Haryanto built the museum in Kebon Jeruk after spending 25 years developing one of the most significant private art collections in the country, starting with early Indonesian modern art and then moving into modern and contemporary works from all over the world. A prominent philanthropist, he is President Director of AKR Corporindo, a chemical and energy logistics company and property developer. Haryanto is a trustee of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is located beside the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and acts as “a leading voice for contemporary art and culture”.
Fenessa undertook a fellowship at Hirshhorn Museum and also attended a five-week programme at The Guggenheim, New York in 2017. “During my fellowship, I learned a lot about the expertise and solid teamwork it takes to run an international museum,” she recalls. “I got the chance to shift between departments, which allowed me to understand more about the amount of effort it takes to do many tasks – from conserving an artwork to managing communications in the process of opening a successful exhibition. One of my proudest moments was participating in the conservation process of Ai Weiwei’s Cube Light.”
The realisation of a 10-year dream, Museum MACAN is Indonesia’s first private modern and contemporary art institution. It made Time’s 2018 list of the “World’s 100 Greatest Places”. “Indonesia’s famously vibrant modern-art scene finally has the home it deserves,” the magazine said. “Museum MACAN… sprawls over 43,000 sq. ft. and showcases local talent, such as painter and performance artist Tisna Sanjaya and woodwork specialist Gatot Indrajati, alongside international icons such as Japan’s Yayoi Kusama and China’s Ai Weiwei. Most of the art comes from the personal trove of Haryanto Adikoesoemo, a prominent local collector and businessman.”
Fenessa’s objective is to develop the museum and ensure that its public programmes are sustainable, while the exhibitions remain relevant to the public. “Art Turns. World Turns”, the museum’s inaugural exhibition, was a big success, attracting more than 130,000 visitors. Another successful exhibition was “Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow”, launched in May 2018. It made headlines in both local and international media.
“Indonesia has always had a great pool of artistic talent, and we have always been very proud of this and of the diversity among the artists,” Fenessa declares. “Our mission at Museum MACAN is to provide a platform for Indonesian artists to showcase their works, and also to promote their works on a global level.
“Prior to MACAN, there was no institution like this in Indonesia. The challenge was to figure out ways to make the museum accessible to the Indonesian public in general. As we are such a very diverse nation, it’s a continuous effort to cater to the diverse audience group within the country. We want to be able to provide programmes that are educational and relevant to the public.”
Overcoming the challenges is not easy, Fenessa admits. “We have learned a lot from top cultural institutions in the world. We also do regular visitor surveys to create in-depth knowledge of our audience group, and we are always asking ourselves questions about the relevancy of our current and upcoming programmes.”
Fenessa’s training and passion for art are invaluable to her father, and she is supported by a lot of bright individuals who work alongside her, notably the management team led by Director Aaron Seeto, formerly Curatorial Manager of Asian and Pacific Art at Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. “As an institution that provides public access, we are actively working to forge new strategic partnerships with both private and public stakeholders,” Fenessa points out.
This year, the museum is putting on a wide range of exhibitions, including the recently opened “Matter and Place”, a show that explores the relationships between people and places. One of the most exciting installations featured in this exhibition is “Elevation” by Andra Matin.
This brilliant architect “explores the elevational diversity in Indonesia’s vernacular architecture, which reflects the way people interact with nature and their culture”. His astonishing installation was awarded a special mention at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2018.
Malaysia-based artist Shooshie Sulaiman also presents an installation, “Tadika Getah (Rubber Kindergarten)”, which was inspired by her childhood in Malaysia. Other works from Danh Vo, FX Harsono, Genevieve Chua and Theaster Gates are also part of the exhibition, which runs until the end of July in the museum’s Sculpture Garden.
Another exhibition that Fenessa is excited about is Museum MACAN’s upcoming show: “Dunia dalam Berita”. Opening this month (May), the exhibition “presents the ways in which media democratisation and greater access to information impact Indonesian contemporary art.” “Going into the last quarter of the year, we’re putting on another major exhibition, by Xu Bing, an acclaimed Chinese contemporary artist,” Fenessa tells us.
Surrounded as she is by so many talented artists from around the world, who stands out for Fenessa? “I really admire Do-ho Suh,” she replies. “He’s a Korean sculptor and installation artist. When I first encountered his work, which was a reimagined house, I was really transported by what he had done to a space. I learned more about him and his work, which focuses on architecture and space, and I finally acquired one of his works. That was my very first acquisition and, up to today, it’s still something that’s very precious to me. I’m also a big fan of (American artist) James Turrell.”
Aside from art, Fenessa enjoys travelling and diving. “The underwater calm is priceless,” she says. She is passionate about taking on non-profit work. “I’ve been doing this since college, and the same spirit drives the Museum MACAN Foundation. We focus on education through art,” she says. The foundation does community outreach, offering resources to teachers to talk to students about art.
Finishing up our interview, Fenessa expresses her hopes and dreams for the museum’s future growth. “Looking forward, I truly hope that MACAN grows to be the leading art institution not only in Indonesia, but also in the region. We are striving to build a bridge between art and the public, and we hope to continuously do so.”