How Indonesia’s ROH Projects is taking on the global art world

Jun Tirtadji standing in ROH Project’s forthcoming new space in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo credit: Davy Linggar. Image courtesy of ROH Projects.
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Asia Society Hong Kong

Young Indonesian art gallerist Jun Tirtadji talks about the efforts behind ROH Projects’ increasing visibility in the art world.

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of ROH Projects

 

Jun Tirtadji standing in ROH Project’s forthcoming new space in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo credit: Davy Linggar. Image courtesy of ROH Projects.

 

Indonesian contemporary art gallery ROH Projects is everywhere. Just this week, the gallery ended its month-long run in the collaborative exhibition “Condo London 2020,” showcasing a new body of work by young Indonesian artist Bagus Pandega in conversation with British artist Flo Brooks at Project Native Informant, a London art gallery.

During the same period, ROH Projects participated in Singapore’s boutique art fair S.E.A. Focus presenting works by Indonesian artists Luqi Lukman, Maruto, Nadira Julia and Nadya Jiwa at their booth in a minimalistic manner that drew positive buzz among industry insiders. Prior to this, in November 2019, the gallery also participated for the fourth time in West Bund Art & Design and for the first time in ART021, both in Shanghai, China and in December, Art Basel Miami Beach.

Responding to CoBo Social via email ROH Projects founder Jun Tirtadji explained this ambitious approach geared towards regional and international visibility, something not often seen in the Southeast Asian art scene, which tends to be shy on the global stage. 

“We feel that it’s important to expand, as well as strengthen networks and exposure for our artists. That their works [can] be seen within the context of a much broader conversation,” said the 30-year-old gallerist.

ROH, which means “spirit” in Bahasa Indonesia, was founded in 2012, focusing on the development of Indonesian artist careers and practices, both emerging as well as established.

Regarding his reasons for launching ROH Projects soon after graduating from Pepperdine University, California with a double-degree in Philosophy and Business, Tirtadji said, “Simply put, there seemed to be a great creative potential for artists in Indonesia that requires nurturing and a more comprehensive, meticulous form of infrastructure.”

Previously located in Equity Tower, an office building in the Sudirman area in Jakarta, ROH Projects is now in the process of building its new space; location yet to be revealed. The lack of physical space is not holding the gallery back though.

ROH Projects is currently involved in another collaborative exhibition titled “Chromatic Network” at Galeri Salihara, Jakarta, which opened on 8 February featuring works by one of the more prominent Indonesian artists on their roster, Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi. The same artist is also doing a solo show at Silverlens Galleries in Manila, Philippines which opened on 18 January and will be on view through 15 February 2020.

This is also a sign of an ongoing trend for ROH Projects—the artists on their roster are visible in exhibitions across the region and beyond. In fact, last year, one of their artists, Syagini Ratna Wulan, exhibited in the Indonesian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale as part of a collaborative, interactive work with Handiwirman Saputra. More recently, another one of their artists, Aditya Novali is currently presenting his latest works with 16 other international artists and collaboratives at Dhaka Art Summit 2020 in response to the theme “On Muzharul Islam: Surfacing Intention.”

Ambition aside, what is the reason behind this Indonesian gallery’s success in expanding its visibility and presence in the art world?

“From the beginning our gallery received an incredible amount of support from people we look up to—from artists, curators, collectors, colleagues, and other stakeholders who want to see contemporary art and its appreciation grow—so anything that has happened to the gallery has happened very organically through these very special friendships that we really cherish,” Tirtadji said.

Nonetheless, building genuine relationships with artists played an integral role in the gallery’s development as well. Responding to CoBo Social, he said, “We feel we have a close relationship to our artists and try to grow together with them.”

Tirtadji shared that there were “multi-faceted” challenges in running such a space but “primarily they relate to the process of building something in an environment that still lacks basic infrastructure.” Yet, he noted that at the same time such a situation also brought many opportunities.

The only thing he would have done differently in hindsight is to have “started out working within a bigger organization to develop experience and awareness for existing models for galleries that have worked before starting out,” said Tirtadji. Then he mused, “But I suppose that only hindsight is 20/20?”

Experienced or not, ROH Projects seems to be at the forefront of an Indonesian contemporary art scene eager to burst out of its regional and local cocoon, ready to show off its wings to the international art world.

 

 


 

Reena Devi Shanmuga Retnam is a Singaporean arts journalist and critic who writes for regional and international media such as ArtAsiaPacific (HK), Hyperallergic (NY) and Artsy (NY). Previously she was a full-time reporter with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore and TODAY newspaper (SG), breaking stories and exploring issues such as leadership, race, funding and censorship in the Singapore arts scene.

 

 

 
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