Sun, 10 Oct 1999

Indonesian paintings star at Singaporean art auctions

SINGAPORE (JP): Paintings by Indonesian artists, and those with Indonesian scenes by others, have always played an important part in Southeast Asian art auctions. This month's auctions at Christie's, Sotheby's and Glerum were no exception. Art lovers and investors did not hesitate to spend large amounts of money to purchase artworks in the hope that they would later be able to sell them at a profit.

The auction at Glerum on Oct. 2 began with an Indonesian painting,A Market scene by Koempoel fetching a low price of S$400. Other important paintings included Austrian E. Rizek's Market in Bangli, Bali which was sold for S$170,000 and W. G. Hofker's Portrait of Ni Gedoer, Janger Dancer which fetched S$220,000. Others included Dullah's Flowers in a Chinese vase and Srihadi S's Two dancers which fetched S$12,000 and S$28,000 respectively.

The Christie's auction was held on the following day and featured 141 paintings. Raden Saleh's Combat between a buffalo and tiger was sold for only S$130,000, far less than the estimated price of between S$180,000 and S$250,000. Walter Spies' Ploughing farmer, offered at between S$700,000 and S$900,000, was sold at S$700,000, while his Sawahs in the Preanger Hills fetched S$750,000. In the market place, a painting by Anita Magsaysay-Ho from the Philippines was fought over by two Filipino bidders and fetched an unreasonable high price of S$605,000 while the estimated price was only between S$18,000 and S$25,000.

Sotheby's auction on Oct. 3 was interesting, especially so for Indonesians. Raden Saleh's Lying in wait, which depicts a dramatic scene and combines the three themes of man, animal and landscape against the backdrop of the Borobudur temple was sold for S$2,200,000. This figure almost matched the sensational price for another of Raden Saleh's works at Christie's two years ago, when the bidding reached S$3,000,000. Quek Chin Yeow, managing director of the Singapore Sotheby's Southeast Asian paintings section, considered it a positive signal that Indonesia is recovering from its economic crisis.

S. Sudjojono's 1985 painting Gerak Baru (New Movement) was subject to extraordinary bidding, eventually fetching a price of S$180,000. This was probably due to the pivotal nature of Sudjojono's role in the Indonesian new painting movement, Persagi. Also in the auction was Hendra Gunawan's painting Last Bell. It looked similar to a painting of his owned by the Jakarta Arts Council which was damaged in an attempted theft a few years ago. While the case was made public, it was reported that Hendra had painted a similar painting which was in the custodian of a private collector. Both paintings were later declared original. (Julianti Parani)