ICON Asian Arts (Bali) and Editions Didier Millet (Singapore) are collaborating to raise Javanese antiques to the level of fine art. The Bali gallery will host on 3 December 2009 two simultaneous events: the opening of the world premier exhibition of the Smith-Tirtoprodjo Collection of Javanese antiques; and the launch of a comprehensive illustrated book on the subject, Javanese Antique Furniture and Folk Art, published by Editions Didier Millet.
The Smith-Tirtoprodjo Collection is the most extraordinary group ever assembled of 18th and 19th century artworks in teak from the villages of Central and East Java. These masterpieces challenge preconceived ideas about Javanese art and furniture, compelling us to regard them not as mere objects of use, but as works of art in their own right. With their primitive purity, power of form, and visceral expression of humanity, these works hold their own among the most celebrated tribal art from all corners of the Indonesian archipelago.
The exhibition, “The Back of Beyond: Javanese Village Masterpieces,” showcases dozens of carefully chosen pieces from the collection, and will run through 19 January 2010. The opening reception on 3 December at 6:30pm also marks the launch of the book, written by art historian and dealer, Bruce W. Carpenter. This authoritative 312-page volume on the subject is extensively illustrated with photographs by noted art photographers, Charles Backus, and Ida Bagus Putu Putra Adnyana. Books will be available for purchase at the reception at a special launch price, which includes a book signing by author and collectors, and complimentary holiday gift wrapping with a Java village art theme as well.
Until now, the quirky, enigmatic and uniquely beautiful art and furnishings of Central and East Java’s villages were little known to art historians, museum curators and collectors. Their distinguishing features – – bright, bold colours; naïve forms and compositions; flattened perspectives; anonymous origins; humour and social commentary — have at last been revealed and recognised with the launch of this book and concurrent gallery exhibition.
Dating primarily from the 19th century, the valuable pieces to be exhibited at ICON were amassed by antiquarian and furniture maker, David B. Smith (of Seattle and Blitar), and connoisseur of Javanese culture, James Tirtoprodjo, over a period of decades. This volume stands as the definitive source for understanding and appreciating this distinctive genre of Java’s traditional artworks.
Images by Charlie Backus.