Sun, 01 Oct 2000

Singapore Sotheby's shelves plan to sell RI painting

SINGAPORE (JP): Sotheby's auction house decided on Saturday to postpone its controversial plan to sell a painting by famous Indonesian painter the late Sindusudarsono Sudjojono or S. Sudjojono, following public scrutiny of the work's ownership status.

Peter Cheung, Sotheby's deputy director for China and Southeast Asia Public Relations, said that Sotheby's would cooperate with authorities to find out the rightful owner of the 1978 masterpiece titled Djuang Main Ukulele (Djuang Plays the Ukulele).

"We will keep it until there is a satisfactory explanation (concerning the ownership status) from both sides (the consigner and Sudjojono's relatives)," Cheung said in an interview with The Jakarta Post.

The announcement came a day before the annual auction is due to open in Singapore on Sunday.

The painter's wife Rose Pandanwangi earlier urged Sotheby's to stop the auction. She said the painting is part of a family collection that went missing in l986.

The relatives were aware that the 91cm by 71cm oil on canvas had gone missing only in 1989 when they were about to open the Museum Sudjojono. They claim the painting titled Girl with Violin which appeared in Sotheby's catalog was in fact Djuang Main Ukulele that went missing more than a decade ago.

However, she could not be reached for comments on Saturday.

S. Sudjojono, who is widely regarded as the driving force behind the establishment of Indonesian modern art, died in 1986.

His relatives have claimed that the painting went missing in the mid-1980s. They remembered the painting last being on display at Duta Fine Arts Gallery in September 1986, just a few months after the painter died.

A staff member from Duta Fine Arts said Saturday that she was not sure the painting was on display at the gallery.

Cheung said that canceling the auction of the Sudjojono was a matter of principle: "The auction house does not sell anything with dubious ownership status. We equally protect both the consigner and the buyer," he said.

Sotheby's insists it will not disclose the identity of the consigner or owner of an artwork on sale -- not even their nationality or sex.

Cheung said the consigner has participated in the annual auction before and that Sudjojono's relatives' claim came after the catalog had been circulated. In this year's sale, the consigner has another three paintings on offer, he said. (Pandaya)