Kusnadi

[Archive] Why a Display Hall: an interview with Kusnadi

This text is an interview of Indonesian art critic Kusnadi on the selection of work for an exhibition “Se-Abad Seni Rupa Indonesia”(A Decade of Indonesian Art). This interview is part of TEMPO special report on the opening of “Balai Seni Rupa Jakarta” published in 11 September 1976.

This is an interview with Kusnadi. He is a painter and an art critic. He is the chief of the selection committee board for “Se-Abad Seni Rupa Indonesia” exhibition. The members of the committee are Kusnadi, Soemarjo, Alex Papadimitriou, Fajar Sidik and Suparto. Four advisors to the exhibition are S.Sudjojono, Zaini (representative of Jakarta Arts Council), Basuki Abdullah, and Sudarso.

Opening of Se-Abad Seni Rupa exhibition. Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics, Jakarta.

Q: What’s the urgency on building a Display Hall today?

Kusnadi: We need a display room. If artworks keep moving without a Display Hall that would be similar to us running but don’t know how to stop. It is precisely those that move that need to be written. This hall is the place.
A Display Hall is not the final destination. It’s just a place where we can measure and compare one work to another. It fosters artistic inspiration that never stops moving and growing. It’s an intergenerational bridge because it contains a lot of messages. That is why we need to collect the best work. Meanwhile, exhibitions are merely a temporary peak achievement of an individual or group. With exhibition only, art education is not sustainable. But I am not saying that exhibition is not important, because it still functions as a parameter to new achievements.

Q : Where will the Se-Abad exhibition start?

Kusnadi : This exhibition starts from the period of Raden Saleh (1807-1880) around 1876-1937. We only have Raden Saleh in this period. Abdullah, Wakidi and Basuki Abdullah. Next (1937) is the point of departure of PERSAGI until 1950s that was fueled by the awakening of movements in Indonesia. In this period we have Sudjojono, Agus Djaya, Affandi, Sudarso, Hendra, Otto Djaja, Affandi, Koesnadi, Zaini, Nashar, Suparto and Rusli. The 1960s period until today is represented by G. Sidharta, Widayat, Fadjar Sidik, Popo Iskandar, Ahmad Sadali, Srihadi, up to recent painters such as Mustika, Moedjita, Kabul and Hambali.
In this matter, a donation from Adam Malik and Mitra Budaya does take a big role, but if the donated works are not qualified, those works could not be displayed. Of course there are artists whose work is not displayed, it’s not because we don’t have the work, but there are other considerations. So it is normal to be questioned : “ why is my work not on display?”

Q: How’s your stance towards foreign artists works such as Bonnet, Blanco, Le Mayeur, Hans Snel, Arie Smith and so on?

Kusnadi: As the first step, their works are not yet needed. I think they understand their position, just like the way Bonnet created a Bali traditional painting museum without including his own works.

Q: What about the paintings and sculptures of artists that are considered as LEKRA?

Kusnadi: The one that is assessed by the committee is the work, not the person. We are trying to be as objective as possible. That is why we have criterias, a lot of them, that we can’t mention one by one.

Q: How’s the committee’s response toward experimental art?

Kusnadi: As long as the experiment is well-developed, then it can be accepted. Not an experiment from a flea market. The one that demonstrates obscenity, the one that displays condoms, or even underwear, no need. If we have that kind of work in our Display Hall, where should we go from there? They will have their own place. Oh anyway, it does not mean a nude painting can’t be displayed. But never mind, we should not talk about nude painting, too much trouble. So, experiment is fine as long as it is healthy, with a cultural artistic approach, it’s welcomed.

At the end of the interview Kusnadi requested not to be asked too deep about the Display Hall, because the main target is to have the first 100 days of exhibition as the first step towards establishing a Display Hall. In the future, the content of the hall will be decided.

Translated by Sally Texania

Read the original archive in Bahasa here


Kusnadi (b. Magelang, 1921; d. Jakarta, 1997) was an artist, art critic, and educator. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, he was trained as a painter through Keimin Bunka Shidoso. In 1947 he became part of Pelukis Rakyat and was one of the first lecturers of ASRI (Indonesian Academy of Fine Arts) in 1950.
He was an editorial staff in Budaya journal from 1952, and became its main editor in 1955. The compilation of his writings and works have been published under the title: ‘Kusnadi: Kritikus, Seniman, Pendidik’ (1996).
source: Indonesian Visual Art Archive