Nov 17 2016

Gajah Gallery 20th Anniversary Exhibition

by Marybeth Stock

Installation view of “Gajah Gallery 20th Anniversary Exhibition” at Gajah Gallery, Singapore, 2016. Courtesy Gajah Gallery. 

One of Singapore’s oldest, continuously running private galleries, Gajah Gallery, marks its 20th anniversary this year. Gallery owner and director Singaporean Jasdeep Sandhu has for two decades been highlighting artists from throughout Southeast Asia and launching the careers of some of the region’s most celebrated talents. The exhibition “20 Year Anniversary” is being held at Gajah’s immense new 557-square-meter gallery in the industrial area of Tanjong Pagar Distripark, presented through the lens of Sandhu’s informal written reminiscences of his travels, his growing understanding and appreciation for the region’s art, and his insights and ruminations on his gallery’s eclectic group of artists. 

Sandhu describes how in 1995 he became consumed with the art world, inspired in part by an issue of ArtAsiaPacific magazine that featured an overview of contemporary Indonesian art. In conceiving his own gallery, he deliberately sought out emerging and unheralded artists throughout Southeast Asia, and from Indonesia in particular. During his 20 years of discovery, his travels have not only unearthed talent—Gajah Gallery was among the first to exhibit Indonesian artists Entang Wiharso and Nasirun, then unknown, now today leading artists of their generation. Gajah was also among the few venues in this region to identify and promote artists from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Burma and India. Sandhu’s unique vision has helped trigger greater international awareness and appreciation of the region’s contemporary art; he has also been influential in documenting its antecedents and trends.

In this sprawling group exhibition, 25 artists are featured—some with a single work, others with two or three. Complemented by Sandhu’s anecdotes, a stroll through this collection of approximately three dozen works, many from Sandhu’s personal collection, offers both an engaging personal narrative as well as a coherent and insightful overview of Southeast Asian aesthetics.

Artists from throughout the region are shown here, but predominantly featured are works by the Jendela Group, a collaborative of six Indonesian artists formed in the early 1990s who went on to renegotiate the discourse of Indonesian art which, at the time, revolved predominantly around figurative and socio-political themes. Diverging from the mainstream, Jendela members dabbled in performance art, multimedia installation and abstraction, characterizing their work as a response to “the commonplace and the random.” A selection of paintings and sculpture from these artists—Yunizar, Jumaldi Alfi, Rudi Mantofani, Yusra Martunus and Handiwirman Saputra—form the backbone of the Gajah exhibition.

Gajah Gallery looks well set to thrive for at least another 20 years: the gallery recently established a second location in Yogyakarta, where it also oversees the Yogya Art Lab (YAL), an innovative art hub co-founded in 2012 by Yunizar and Sandhu which serves as studio, workshop and experimental arts platform. Here are some selections from the gallery’s 20th anniversary show. 

Balinese artist PUTU SUTAWIJAYA, one of the first artists to be represented by Gajah.  Sunrise (2016), reflects the ritualistic sensibility that infuses his work. Courtesy Gajah Gallery, Singapore.
Balinese artist PUTU SUTAWIJAYA, one of the first artists to be represented by Gajah. Sunrise (2016), reflects the ritualistic sensibility that infuses his work. Courtesy Gajah Gallery, Singapore.

“Gajah Gallery 20th Anniversary Exhibition” is currently on view at Gajah Gallery, Singapore, until November 20, 2016. 

To read more articles on Singapore or other Southeast Asian countries, go to our digital library: https://library.artasiapacific.com/