In an effort to support new and upcoming Indonesian artists and through their works, showcase the diversity of the culturally rich archipelago, Benny founded Art Xchange Gallery in September 2009 in Surabaya, East Java. After two years of great success in Indonesia, Art Xchange Gallery made a niche for itself in Singapore’s art scene in March 2011 and established itself as the promoter of young and fresh talents.
“My objective is to educate people on contemporary art. Collecting art is an expensive hobby, and most art collectors start to buy very cheap artworks which are usually not of good quality. A huge percentage of collectors rely on what others say while buying. They don’t trust their eyes and heart and identify good artwork. I am trying to change that,” said Benny who learnt how to identify great artwork through sheer persistence and hardwork.
With an unlikely background in car designing and modifications, Benny, who studied and worked in Canada for eight years, came back home to Indonesia to set up a car modification business. However, fate had different plans and he found his real calling after a family friend introduced him to the beauty of contemporary artworks. He shared, “It was my father-in-law’s friend who introduced me to meaningful art and took me to various exhibitions where I was exposed to exemplary pieces of art. My eyes were opened to this new world and I travelled across Asia from Shanghai to Dubai, India to Hong Kong and attended exhibitions and art fairs.”
The first thing he did was learn how to differentiate top quality artwork from decorative and mediocre ones and Benny made up his mind to promote upcoming artists from Indonesia and showcase their work and diversity to the world. “I wanted to help young talented Indonesian artists and travelled across Yogyakarta, Bali, Java, Sumatra, Surbaya meeting artists and looking at their work. I selected some artists whose work were top quality and set up my first gallery to promote them.”
In his effort to promote unknown but talented artists, Benny even mentors the artists while they are creating new pieces of art. “From a commercial perspective, an artist needs to create works that has selling potential. For this purpose, I sometimes nudge my artists in the right direction,” explained the 44-year old gallery owner.
According to him, many artists are idealistic but playing the role of a mentor, Benny helps them overcome reservations and guides them on being true to their passion as well as being appealing to the market as he explained, “We have to be able to sell the artwork and help support the artist financially.”
At the same time, he had founded Art Xchange mainly to support new and upcoming Indonesian artists with an intention to encourage creative exchange and “inspire original traditional artwork” which portrays the vibrant culture and roots of Indonesia. Benny explained, “These days, most upcoming artists are trying to copy popular western or Chinese art genres. Many art aficionados are noticing that modern Indonesian artists are reproducing similar works to western art. I want to discourage such homogenisation and promote those artists who portray their traditional culture in their works,” said Benny.
Art as Investment
At Art Xchange Gallery, the price of original artworks can range anywhere from a few hundred to even S$60,000. “There are many people who invest in art and expect good returns after few years. For this, collectors need to have an eye for quality and have a personal connection with the artwork. Galleries can help collectors especially in the area of whether the artwork is real or copied,” said Benny. Citing the example of well recognised Indonesian artists such as Sumantri whose artowrk has appreciated over 100 per cent Benny clarified, “Sumantri specialises in mastering Koi Fish paintings and today his artworks have found a place in the homes of collectors from Argentina, Russia, Switzerland, United States etc. But unfortunately, today, his paintings are being forged and copied and sold at high prices to unsuspecting buyers.”
Benny’s word of advice for collectors is to train their eyes to be discerning. He said that art aficionados and collectors should be able to identify fakes and learn how to distinguish good and bad quality artwork and one way to do this is to look at many artworks.
Art Xchange represents approx 339 artists from all over the world, many are Indonesians and the Gallery is looking for artists who are interested in growing together as a team. He said, “I am not interested in working with those who will look at my gallery as a stepping stone for better things. We represent artists who really need to be promoted and who are willing to grow with us in the long run.”
His ‘roster’ of talented artists include Cadio Torompo from Sulawasi and Suwandhi Waeng from Batu who have made a name for themselves in the art scene of Indonesia. Another artist, Antoe Boediono has been gaining recognition for his hyper realist acrylic paintings. “Acrylic painting is even more difficult than oil painting and his technique is awe inspiring. Boediono uses the white of the canvas as his base for his chiaroscuro technique which otherwise is almost impossible to achieve in acrylic paintings. Even the best artists are unable to achieve this feat. He creates paintings in two months and they are widely popular. I really think Boediono will make it big in the art world,” said Benny enthusiastically.
Art Xchange is planning to showcase paintings of upcoming artists such as Boediono, Suwandhi and Sumantri in Singapore later this year. There are some exciting plans to include dinner performances and haute cuisine for the launch of an art show by Vivien Richter, a German artist collaborating with some Indonesian artists and if you are interested to attend or want more info, please contact Benny: email@example.com or visit the Gallery at 4 Eu Tong Seng St #02-65 The Central S(059817). Tel: +65 6224 9007.