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Stedelijk Museum opens the first exhibition of the Indonesian brothers Agus and Otto Djaya in the Netherlands
Otto Djaya, Revolution, 1947. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM.- In 1947, at the height of the Indonesian struggle for independence, director Willem Sandberg staged the first exhibition of the Indonesian brothers Agus and Otto Djaya in the Netherlands. It was also the first solo presentation of contemporary non-Western artists at the Stedelijk. The work of the Djaya brothers focuses on the Indonesian fight for independence after the nation was declared the Republic of Indonesia in 1945. Research conducted by the museum last year into the brothers’ presence in the Netherlands, sheds new light on their activities. These new insights inspired an intriguing exhibition that fills two galleries, a symposium, and other activities.

New research carried out by independent curator and researcher Kerstin Winking into the work of the Indonesian Djaya brothers in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam reveals the presence of a significant amount of materials on the brothers in Dutch archives. Between 1947 and 1950, Agus and Otto Djaya were in Europe, primarily the Netherlands, involved in a secret mission to promote the cause of the Indonesian National Revolution. During this time, they produced a number of paintings, a selection of which are on view at the Stedelijk. In conjunction with works from the collection of the Stedelijk, the National Museum for World Cultures and Leiden University Library, the exhibition also features archival material that shows how closely art and politics were interwoven, that the artists were under surveillance by the Netherlands Government Information Service, and that the Djaya’s and their support of independence received the backing of Dutch intellectuals.

The Djaya's in Amsterdam
When the Djaya’s arrived in Amsterdam in 1947, they already had a network of local contacts, including the Leiden-born professor and curator of the Indisch Museum (now the Tropenmuseum) Theodoor Galestin, professor of non-western sociology Willem Frederik (Wim) Wertheim and museum director Willem Sandberg. The brothers had brought many of the 126 paintings and drawings that Sandberg exhibited at the Stedelijk with them from Jakarta, stowed in the cargo of the steamship on which they travelled. Examined against a background of the four-year war between the Indonesian independence fighters and the Dutch colonial regime, this exhibition invites new research. Why were the Djaya’s in the Netherlands and not in the interior of Java like most of their revolutionary artist-peers? Why did curators like Willem Sandberg and Theodoor Galestin research, present and collect the work of the Djayas? What documentary evidence can be found to explain the presence of the Indonesian artists in the Netherlands?

The Djaya Brothers: Revolusi in the Stedelijk examines the work of the Djayas and places their presence in the Netherlands in a broader context. It highlights, for instance, the fact that the work of Agus Djaya and Otto Djaya was a synthesis of Hindu-Javanese traditions and modern western art, particularly the work of the European Expressionists and French Modernists. In addition to unusual water colours and paintings, the exhibit also features objects from archives in the Netherlands, including catalogues and photos of the artists taken by the Netherlands Government Information Service. The Stedelijk also features work from its collection by other revolutionary artists such as Mochtar Apin and Baharudin, and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos of the inauguration of Sukarno, the first Indonesian president of the Republic of Indonesia in late 1949, the exit of the Dutch soldiers.

The extensive Public Program in June features an international symposium organised in partnership with the Rijksmuseum.

The exhibition is part of STEDELIJK TURNS, a programme that focuses on the museum collection, revealing untold stories and new perspectives, to the canon.

Agus Djaya (1913-1994) was a member of the revolutionary army. Trained as a drawing teacher, he was passionate about Javanese and Balinese traditional culture, and also an admirer of artists like Gauguin and Van Gogh. In 1938 he and artist Sundudarsono Sudjojono founded Persagi, a society dedicated to the development of modern Indonesian art. In 1946, President Sukarno commissioned him to form an art collection for a new Indonesian national museum.

Otto Djaya (1916-2002), the younger brother of Agus, trained as an artist with Persagi. Like his brother, he was a member of the revolutionary army. He created mythological scenes in a style influenced by Wayang shadow puppetry, and also work depicting countless freedom fighters wielding weapons and wearing the apparel of their local region.

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