Top 10: Indonesia – the new generation

[08 Nov 2013]


Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top best bids for Indonesian artists under 35.

Top 10: Indonesia – the new generation
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Samsul ARIFIN $113,560 Main Coret Begitu Saja (2009) 07/08/2011 (Masterpiece Fine Art Auction SINGAPORE)
2 Arin Dwihartanto SUNARYO $113,520 Cmyk 8 (2011) 06/10/2013 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
3 Samsul ARIFIN $96,450 Terapung di laut asia (2008) 30/05/2011 (Christie’s HONG KONG)
4 Ariadhitya PRAMUHENDRA $92,807 Holy Mass (2008) 04/10/2010 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
5 Samsul ARIFIN $83,590 Lupa Cara Berpikir (Forget How To Think) () 04/04/2011 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
6 Samsul ARIFIN $77,280 Kontes Para Pemikir (The Contest for the Thinkers) (2009) 02/04/2012 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
7 Samsul ARIFIN $70,731 Mencari Ujung Lautan (Searching for the Edge of the Ocean) (2009) 23/10/2011 (Borobudur Auction Ptd.Ltd. SINGAPORE)
8 Samsul ARIFIN $64,449 The Thinker #01 (2007) 04/10/2010 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
9 Samsul ARIFIN $64,250 Main Coret Begitu Saja (To scribble without thinking) (2010) 03/10/2011 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
10 Samsul ARIFIN $54,180 Tumbangnya Sebuah Pemikiran (The Fallen Thought) (2012) 07/10/2012 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)


These young Indonesian artists are making the most of a rapidly expanding market: that of South Pacific Asia. The auction houses based in Hong Kong and Singapore are doing all they can to raise the price index of these new contemporary art stars, especially since a number of key influencers are showing positive signs, notably Charles Saatchi. In 2011, you may recall, the Saatchi Gallery of London hosted the exhibition Indonesian Eye: Fantasies and Realities, vaunted as a selection of major contemporary Indonesian artists. After a month-long exhibition in Jakarta, the 18 artists of Indonesian Eye thus found themselves in the UK capital (1 September – 9 October 2011). They included Samsul Arifin and Ariadhitya Pramuhendra. Before the exhibition, both had already made an appearance in the auction market, in 2008. Since then, their work has been keenly sought-after, and their prices are on the rise.

The three artists in this ranking reflect the strong taste for large formats and a visually effective plastic language found in Indonesia, and more generally throughout Asia. For example, the most highly-prized paintings of Samsul Arifin are figurative works with an immediately recognisable style. They feature school stationery items – 2B pencils, Staedtler Boxy rubbers, pens or rough paper – considered by the artist as visual icons familiar to those who went to school in the Eighties and Nineties, before digital technologies became part and parcel of the lives of children from the Indonesian upper classes. The recipe clearly works, because these works have already been shown in Jakarta, Bali, Beijing, Java and Melbourne, and Arifin has garnered eight of the best bids in this Top Ten. He had already made a striking first appearance in the auction room in 2008, when his painting The Thinker was pursued by several bidders and finally knocked down for the equivalent of $12,200, after an estimate of less than $1,700 (at Masterpiece Fine Art Auction, Singapore on 1 March 2008). Only three years later, the artist crossed the $100,000 threshold, achieving a record equivalent to $113,560 for a large acrylic sold in 2011 – i.e. the year when he exhibited in Indonesian Eye – at double its estimate (Main Coret Begitu Saja, 2009, at Masterpiece Fine Art Auction, Singapore).
The market is more complicated in Jakarta, where only small pieces sell, when they manage to sell at all, apart from a painting that achieved $20,020 in 2012 at Masterpiece Auction House (a work from 2007 entitled Innocent, sold on 29 April 2012).

Ariadhitya Pramuhendra sets out to conquer the West
Although the youngest artist in the ranking, Ariadhitya Pramuhendra also has the most impressive international standing. Although not yet 30, he has been taken on by the Perrotin Gallery (and can thus count on visibility in New York and Paris), and is already in fourth place among his compatriots in the top bids.

Pramuhendra has a distinctive, immediately identifiable language, using mainly charcoal to compose realistic, dramatic frescoes full of contrasts, which reflect the entire Christian iconography. Pramuhendra’s art thus questions the sacred within a syncretistic Indonesian society where religious forces play a crucial role. It has a strong resonance in the West because his photographic style, Western influences, liking for the self-portrait (often embodied in the characters of his frescoes), mastery of chiaroscuro and dramatic sense are reminiscent of Georges de la Tour and Caravaggio. To date, his best bids (between $20,000 and $93,000) have been achieved in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo
Born in 1978 in Bandung, Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo studied art at the Bandung Institute of Technology before obtaining a master’s degree at Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, London, in 2005. Sunaryo has concentrated on painting, stretching his limits with innovative techniques, and distilling a passion for strip cartoons, science fiction and Japanese mangas in abstract compositions. After using oil on canvas for several years, the artist moved to coloured resin. He has found it a medium ideally suited to his expressive vigour, enabling him to work rapidly and fluidly. Sunaryo makes use of this material as often as possible, introducing numerous levels, including digital images, and carrying out various experiments to test his reactions. The insatiable creativity of this young and prolific Indonesian artist is now driving auction rooms wild – as proved by the fact that in six months this year, his record bid rose from $31,000 to over $113,000 (a record in April 2013 for the Volcanic Ash Series sold for the equivalent of $30,912 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, topped by a new record in October 2013 with Cmyk 8, sold for the equivalent of $13,520 – over $141,000 including the buyer’s premium – at the same Sotheby’s).