5 independent art spaces in Yogyakarta

From experimental art to new media, independent art spaces play an important role in Yogyakarta’s cultural scene.

Yogyakarta’s creative climate is a generator for unconventional approaches and freshly baked art initiatives. Art Radar profiles a mix of veteran and newcomer spaces showing the best of Indonesia’s contemporary art.

Pendhapa Art Space, backyard with one of Dunadi’s large-scale sculptures, Rumah Singgah Limasan Guest House. Image courtesy PAS.

Pendhapa Art Space, backyard with one of Dunadi’s large-scale sculptures, Rumah Singgah Limasan Guest House. Image courtesy PAS.

This article was written by a participant in our art writing diploma programme. Do you want to write for Art Radar too? Click here to find out more about our Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.


Yogyakarta’s numerous art hubs are characterised by a creative flair, ranging from Javanese traditional to cutting-edge contemporary art. Despite the lack of support from the government, the city is brimming with independent art spaces.

This is due to the efforts of collectors, art professionals and committed local art collectives, who have turned Indonesia’s cultural centre into its most influential mecca of contemporary art. Yogyakarta’s energy further intensifies with the numerous initiatives carried out by these art spaces during Art|Jog (an art fair without galleries) and the Biennale Jogja, attracting a vast array of visitors.

Art Radar provides an overview of where to see contemporary art in Yogyakarta.

The launch of "Maintenance Works", 2017 at Cemeti., Image courtesy Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society.

The launch of “Maintenance Works”, 2017 at Cemeti. Image courtesy Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society.

1. Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society

Established under the Suharto regime in 1988, Cemeti grew from a pioneering platform for experimental art into one of Indonesia’s most valued art institutions. The art space was founded by Dutch artist Mella Jaarsma and her husband, Indonesian artist Nindityo Adipurnomo. By supporting young artists, the couple progressed from modest beginnings to eventually create an extensive global network of artists, curators and writers.

Besides Cemeti’s strong ambition to stimulate new art trends, it functions as a link between local and international artists. Residency programmes like “Landing Spoon” or “Hot Wave” are bridging Asia and Europe, and the outcomes are part of at least six exhibitions each year.

On the occasion of Cemeti’s 30th birthday, the founders decided to “step aside from the day-to-day operations” to make way for a new team, according to Alec Steadman, Co-Chief Curator. The shift is marked by the space’s new name: Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society. The curatorial strategy for 2017 will involve the public, before moving on to another chapter. Steadman told Art Radar:

Instead of rolling out a fully developed program, we decided to use 2017 to recalibrate, envisioning Cemeti as being “down for maintenance” (like a website), whilst being open to the public. The aim is to collectively think through alternative possible futures for Cemeti via the yearlong program ‘Maintenance Works’.

Address: Jl.D.I. Panjaitan No.41, Yogyakarta 55143 Indonesia

Ruang MES 56, Concept Context Contestation Exhibition (2016), Image Courtesy MES 56.

“Concept Context Contestation”, 2016, installation view at Ruang MES 56. Image Courtesy Ruang MES 56.

2. Ruang MES 56

With their main emphasis on new media, the non-profit organisation Ruang MES 56 has run one of the most innovative art spaces in Yogyakarta since 2002. The emergence of the artist initiative correlates with the establishment of the first Faculty of Photography in Yogyakarta in 1994 – a contested newcomer back then. Keen to counteract the disparagement of photography as an artistic medium during the 1990s, 25 students brought MES 56 into being.

The artist collective became one of the most influential forces in the development of photography in Indonesia. According to curator Zhuang Wubin in his publication Photography in Southeast Asia, “this Yogyakarta-based collective is sometimes projected as [photography’s] sole exemplar.” Blurring boundaries between art and life, the bohemian house not only serves as a working space, but is also where the artists live, sleep, socialise and party.

However, since March 2017, Ruang MES 56 has changed into a more collaborative laboratory. The recent shift can be viewed as a response or “surviving strategy” to transformations within Yogyakarta’s art world. MES 56 told Art Radar:

[…] the art scene of Yogyakarta is morphing into [an] “international face” of art, both institution and artwork aspects. We are in a process that we call “art gentrification”, a situation where art is spinning toward itself, toward a center, and zeroing the periphery.

The new experimental platform, “Cooperative Space for Art and et cetera”, includes a rotating schedule of workshops, film screenings, art projects, public presentations and artistic parties.

Address: Jl. Mangkuyudan, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa

Pendhapa Art Space, Exhibition „Representasi“ (May 6 until May 18, 2017) @ PAS, Image Courtesy PAS.

“Representasi”, 6 – 18 May 2017, installation view at Pendhapa Art Space (PAS). Image Courtesy PAS.

3. Pendhapa Art Space

The architectural language of this Javanese-style building communicates the space’s welcoming philosophy as “a home that brings various cross disciplines to work”, Pendhapa Art Space (PAS) told Art Radar. Following his “great dream to open a creative space dedicated to the arts”, sculptor Dunadi founded PAS in 2012.

The space serves as an interdisciplinary platform including everything from performing to fine arts. PAS has launched a number of ongoing programmes across different genres. While the project IKASSRI focuses on the re-cooperation between 200 Indonesian alumni artists in order to “stimulate collaborations in nostalgia”, the three-month-long program PASDASTARI features a dance laboratory for young choreographers.

Beyond linking across ages, cultures and disciplines in a 5000 m2 area, the artist initiative has generated a fresh approach to traditional arts. PAS explains to Art Radar their purpose within Yogyakarta’s dynamic art scene:

Yogyakarta’s art isn’t static. […] While PAS tries to establish and create an international network, we still represent “traditional roots” within the cultural climate of Yogyakarta. Thus, Yogyakarta, as Indonesia’s artistic center, will maintain its identity in response to current times.

With the aim of spotlighting traditional arts from a contemporary perspective, PAS bridges the gap between supposed opposites, continuing the idea behind the renowned cultural institution Bentara Budaya, located in the northern part of the city.

Address: Jalan Ring Road Selatan, Tegal Krapyak RT 01, Panggungharjo Sewon, Bantul Yogyakarta

Redbase Foundation. Image courtesy www.redbasefoundation.org

Redbase Foundation. Image courtesy Redbase Foundation.

4. Redbase Foundation

Dedicated to supporting the local Indonesian art scene through educational and social initiatives, the non-for-profit art space Redbase Foundation opened its doors to the public in 2015.

With the main purpose of creating a platform for artistic exchange and international dialogue, Nan Nancy Nan founded Redbase Foundation under the umbrella of Redbase Art Management (Jakarta). The foundation has its own Indonesian Young Artist Award, aimed at artists in their mid-20s, from different artistic backgrounds.

The social Forever Young Program strives to stimulate the creative and artistic potential of children and youngsters. Each year, Redbase Foundation puts on ten to twelve exhibitions showcasing emerging Indonesian and international talents. To raise the local art scene to an international level, the foundation also offers selected artists connections with an extensive network.

Address: Ds. Jurug RT 02, No. 72 Bangunharjo, Sewon, Bantul

Ace House, KNPS2. Image Courtesy Ace House Collective.

Ace House Collective. Image Courtesy Ace House Collective.

5. Ace House Collective

The Ace House is a self-financed artist-run space founded in 2014 by 20 students from the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta.  The collective told Art Radar that the process of founding the space was based on their personal relations and their impetus to “create a strategy to respond [to] the development of [a] contemporary art movement”. They added:

We started it by identifying our generation and ourselves, since we have been generalized as the “generation of celebration” without critical thinking. But we believe that what we’ve been doing is part of another experiment on critical discussion of Indonesian society nowadays. […] we believe that every generation carries its own weight.

Based on youth and pop culture, the collective inaugurated a laboratory that works partly as a living installation. Titled “Acemart. Shop & Destroy”, it is a 24×7 hours open, site-specific project “initiated as a response to the anomaly of the market and the ART|JOG”, Ace House explained. Displaying instant noodles, toothpaste or cans with paintings and drawings on shop shelves, artworks are presented as “common products”.

Operating as a happening multi-functional space, visitors to Ace House are invited to view the current exhibition, stroll through a merchandise shop or just hang out while drinking coffee.

Art spaces as dwelling places have become the latest trend in recent years in Yogyakarta; some other options include the Kedai Kebun Forum, Viavia Gallery & Cafe or Asmara Art & Coffee Shop.  

Address: Jl. Mangkuyudan No.41, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa, Yogyakarta 55187 Indonesia

Claudia König


This article was written by a participant in our art writing diploma programme. Do you want to write for Art Radar too? Click here to find out more about our Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.


Related topics: Indonesian artists, art spaces, Art Radar Institute, Certificate in Art Journalism and Writing 101

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