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Bradford alumnus opens contemporary art museum in Jakarta


Haryanto Adikoesoemo, a Bradford alumnus and Indonesian property and chemicals tycoon turned prodigious art collector, has founded Indonesia's first contemporary art museum in Jakarta.

Museum Macan, opened its doors to the public in early November, presenting items from the 800 contemporary and modern works owned by Haryanto Adikoesoemo. Situated on a horseshoe-shaped floor of a tower in the western part of the city, the museum in its early days has stunned Jakarta crowds with phantasmagoric light installations like “Infinity Mirrored Room — Brilliance of the Souls” by Yayoi Kusama, alongside classic Indonesian modernist paintings by the likes of Raden Saleh.

Haryanto's collection has grown over a 20-year period and reflects an eclectic collection that is a mix of modernist Indonesian artists like Affandi, contemporary Western artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons, and prominent contemporary artists from Japan and China, including Ms Kusama and Ai Weiwei.

In the 1990s Haryanto was inspired by art and paintings on display at a friend's house, who he described “had so many artworks on the wall, his house becomes very colourful, very vibrant, very pleasant, so it makes me think, ‘Maybe I should start collecting art to put on my wall.’” Haryanto began by buying Indonesian artwork, and then in 1996 began loading up on modernist paintings, including a Picasso.

After graduating from the University of Bradford with a degree in business studies in 1983, Haryanto returned to his native Indonesia to work in his family's business led by his father, Soegiarto Adikoesoemo, who traded in chemicals to local textile and rubber factories.

Incidentally, his early purchases of artworks proved valuable for the family as they would later bail out the Adikoesoemo enterprise suffering from the Asian financial crises in the late 1990s. Haryanto always remembers that Picasso and Renoir had saved his fortune. “I realized art is an investment — when you need money you can still get value from it,” he said. But when he went back to buying art in the early 2000s, prices had skyrocketed, so he switched focus and bought mainly contemporary art.

Creating Museum Macan has been a decade-long dream for Haryanto who says he is determined to add a dose of culture to a city mainly known for its palatial shopping malls and awful traffic. “If I go to Europe, I go to museums for relaxation - Indonesia still doesn’t have that culture.”

Founding a museum, and opening up his personal collection to the world comes with far higher stakes than finding art that looks good in his house, however, and Haryanto draws comparisons between the excitement of the launch of Museum Macan to the anxiety of starting a new business “The anxiousness, this generates a lot of excitement and adrenaline.”

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