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Djie Tjianan and the Art "Revenge"

September 10, 2003
Efix Mulyadi | KOMPAS

It all began with offended feelings. The prejudice that modern or contemporary art cannot grow outside the established area within the mainstream art has been very strong. Indonesia, of course, is included among the "underdeveloped" countries and is mainly ignored.

"It makes me want to prove that such prejudice is simply not right," says Djie Tjianan, the Chairman of the CP Foundation. The foundation he leads is currently holding the CP Open Biennale - where he is the executive producer. The biennale is taking place from September 4 to October 3, 2003, at the National Gallery in Jakarta.

The month-long event includes, among others, an exhibition, a symposium, and a seminar. It has attracted a wide audience. Displayed in the biennale are 200 works including paintings, sculptures, photography, installation works, video art, and multimedia works. One fifth of the 128 contributing artists are from abroad - artists from a total of ten countries are involved in the biennale.

Around 2000 people attended the opening event, coming from various levels and groups of the society, from the business people to the professionals. Never again can a "serious" art event, and an art exhibition at that, attract so many people. Moreover, while the government used to hold such big events, this particular biennale is privately conducted, and practically non-profit.

Djie Tjianan admits that he had been shocked when during the preparation of the biennale, a bomb exploded at the JW Marriott, Jakarta. However, he feels supported by I Gede Ardika, Indonesia's Minister for Culture and Tourism. "Tell people that you have met me and tell them that the effect of the bomb is not as bad as reported," Tjianan quotes the minister. The artists turn out to have nerves of steel: all the invited artists still attend the biennale.

They stay not in five-star hotels as they usually do when invited by organizers of international art events. "We promise each other not to demand special treatments when invited to each of our events. Such artists with the caliber of Heri Dono's, when going out of their studios, must be paid so much in dollars per day. Not to mention the expense for the hotels, airplanes, and the huge fee. We won't be able to do that, and it means that the poor Asian countries won't be able to hold any art events," explains curator Jim Supangkat.

Tjianan adds, "High caliber artist like Gu Wenda, for example, is willing to come to Jakarta, and is not paid with the usual professional fee - how is that possible? The key is, well, friendly acquaintance, and the artist is willing to help the biennale to exist."

With such approaches, the first CP Open Biennale is able to proceed smoothly. Tjianan declines to say the amount of money involved to hold the event and refuses to comment on the news circulating among artists that states the number of up to around Rp 1.5 billion. He only says that CP Foundation is not alone in this endeavor; there are other sponsors such as Bank Indonesia, the UBS, and other supporters. He says, "There have been many friends who contribute this and that." Another result of a "friendly acquaintance" is a café that opens alongside the biennale, managed by QB World Books.

"Honestly, my colleagues and I were afraid to imagine that it would grow this big," Tjianan says.

Together with Jim Supangkat, Tjianan founded the CP Foundation in 2001, with the aim to widen the world's art platform, which will foster the formation of democratic and pluralistic principles. Before that, he established the Artspace in Washington DC, USA, with the aim to bring the contemporary Indonesian art works to the world.

Several exhibitions have been held in the Artspace, displaying works or artists such as Sunaryo, Chusin, Entang, and Nyoman Nuarta, along with works from Latin American and Iranian artists.

"Some visitors even came three times to see Chusin's works. To me, that is already comforting as it means that Indonesia is not ignored. But this is only in a small scale. Furthermore, I realize that with Artspace, it isn't possible to 'knock on the American door.' No one will pay attention. Therefore, when Jim Supangkat suggested to form a big forum such as the biennale, which will embrace Asia so that we will work together, I was enthusiastic," Tjianan explains.


Apparently Tjianan has been working wholeheartedly and totally to realize his dream of putting Jakarta on the art world's map, alongside Beijing, Fukuoka, Queensland, and other renowned cities. At the last night of the biennale preparation before the opening, he stayed up until around 5.30 a.m. at the gallery, accompanied by the painter Chusin, among others.

Before the biennale took place, Tjianan flew to many art festivals to be familiar with the playing field, meeting the movers and shakers of the art community. "Clearly, networks and friends play a big part," he says.

To operate CP Foundation, he employs ten people, which became 50 when holding the biennale. "We must keep it small and simple so that we can be strong and flexible," Tjianan explains.

Such managerial principle is also applied in operating his other business, one that provides the daily cash. He saw that VCD players could be cheaply bought and the need for entertainment was high, while local cinemas were not competitive enough.

He then founded PT Video Ezy Internasional that provides the renting of videos - or in practice VCDs nowadays - in 2000, by buying the franchise right from Australia. The company now has already 110 outlets in Jakarta and environs, and in many other towns and cities in Indonesia. He has only 40 employees.

Such fast growth was attained after initial difficulties. In the first six months, he only owned ten outlets. Still he stayed, as he believed it was going to be successful. He says, "In 2000, there were many unused lots. I asked the owners to share; I would be the supplier of the videos. They, in turn, would be responsible for the interior furnishing and the salary for the shopkeeper. This was in principle a low cost and low risk business."

He has also founded PT Cinekom, a business to transfer movies for the cinemas or television-station to those for home-viewing purposes. Naturally, he buys the right to do that. One of the movies he bought was Petualangan Sherina [Sherina's Adventure, a highly popular movie for children - translator's note]. He is now working on a collaboration with Prima Entertainment that produces FTV [short for Film Television, movie productions aimed for television stations - translator's note]. For this enterprise, he needs only 15 employees.

"We subcontract the works that are not related to our core business, so that our organization stays lean," he says.

When he founded a property management business in Washington, DC, in 1992, he asked two colleagues of his. Here he also applied such principle: small, but agile. He chose to work in the US because he felt familiar with the country: he took his bachelor degree in 1982 Ð 1985 in business management, at the University of Texas, Austin. He then spends a lot of time in Uncle Sam's land.

Born in Bandung, June 30, 1961, Djie Tjianan admits of being in love with art, although he only started collecting art works 15 years ago. His passion lies in the contemporary art, with works from artists such as Sunaryo, Chusin, or Nyoman Nuarta.

The husband of Febe Wirjadi and father of three children (Kristie, Vicky, and Marco) admits that he wants to see the biennale he is fostering grow strong. "If we ask artists from abroad to participate and they directly say yes, then and only then can we feel relieved," he says.