In a similar fashion as when photography was acknowledged for the first time as a medium worthy of an art-status exhibition in Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 1967 featuring the work of Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, and Garry Winogrand, graffiti in Indonesia jubilantly marked its own recognition with a joint exhibition Off the Wall by a dozen graffiti artists in Museum Nasional, November 2016.
But there is no denial about the role of commercial interest in the first ever graffitti exhibition held in a museum in Indonesia. It mainly involves Institut Français d’Indonésie (IFI), domestic commercial gallery d’Gallerie, and the international hotel management Tauzia, on the promotion of its budget hotel brand Yello Hotels opening in Hayam Wuruk, Jakarta.
It started in a meeting of IFI and Yello Hotels. Both has worked together on activities such as film screenings, and further committed to more cooperation in the future. The next idea was street art activity, of which they brought on a successful meeting with Esti Nurjadin, owner of D’Gallerie.
But there is a sense of oxymoron that underlies the intiative. Graffiti is spontaneous, anonoymous, and by nature marginalized. Some argued that it is a form of expression by the deprived social class. One wonders whether hosting such a genre would present a genuine piece of work.
During a press conference in IFI, joined also by Director of Institut Français d’Indonésie Marc Piton and President Director of Tauzia Marc Steinmeyer, Esti replied that in nature, art should be free. But even street art has been commercialized, and by literally taking it off the streets. Some instances are Louis Vuitton and Hermes who has worked on marketing activities using street art. She is convinced on the equal status of low art and high art are the same, referring to the previous phenomenon in London by Banksy.
“So on the streets, street art is still what it is. It will be cleaned off the wall, and repainted over, like mural,” she went on saying, justifying their action of providing the graffiti artists the conveniences they do not normally expect to have. Even some law enforcers in the more educated society consider the artwork vandalism. But still, putting it into perspective, the cat and mouse game is what signifies the art.
Although held shortly throughout the first week of November, the pioneers who have given the opportunity to five Indonesian artists and five French counterparts pride themselves in Off the Wall, as Mr. Piton underlined, that bringing art to the people makes culture accessible to everyone and eventually helps develop creative economy.
Mr. Steinmeyer believed that being creative is not a hobby, but a way of life. As they must have planned to expand the business by opening more hotels in Indonesia following Surabaya and Jakarta, hope arises that this artsy marketing campaign is not short-lived.
Five participating artists from Indonesia are Farhan Siki, whose mural help shaped the 798 art district in Beijing; the globe-trotting Soni Irawan, who earned fame having awarded in 2001 Phillip Morris Asean Art Award; Stereoflow; Tutugraff, and Darbotz from Jakarta, popular for his squid character he has developed since 2004. Google Chrome and Nike are among companies who has used his artworks.
The French artists are Colorz, who has marked various places in Paris since 1987; Kongo, the nickname self-taught artist Cyril Phan uses since he moved to Brazzaville, the place that has forged his identity; Mist, a Parisian who working in his studio in Montpellier, Fenx; and Tilt, who has left marks in more than forty countries. who all come from Paris, Montpellier and Toulouse. They performed live paintings in several places around the city, some provided with white medium which is to be placed in Museum Nasional, some on the walls of IFI.