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Indra Leornadi: How His Photography Is Similar to the Art He Collects


Published by Sugar & Cream, Monday 22 February 2021

Text (by Ricko Leung) and article courtesy of Larry’s List
Images courtesy of Larry’s List and Indra Leonardi
First Publication (04.02.2021) and copy rights: Larry’s List

Art & Collecting

How His Photography Is Similar to the Art He Collects
Coming from a photographer family, Indra Leonardi is the go-to high-society photographer in Indonesia. His portfolio covers weddings, families, special projects, as well as corporate work and video projects. It is actually during his studies in photography when he developed his passion for art. He has built up a collection of around 300 artworks throughout the past 30 years with a strong focus on Indonesian artists of his time, such as Christine Ay Tjoe, Agus Suwage, and Entang Wiharso. He is also actively involved in the Indonesian art scene and has published two books about Indonesian art.
LARRY’S LIST got the chance to discuss with Indra Leonardi on various topics, such as: the painting he fell in love with; how being a photographer makes him more willing to get out of his comfort zone in collecting; his latest acquisition by an Indonesian street artist; and why he is excited to see the artworks that will come out of this difficult time.

Indra Leonardi in front of a work by Entang Wiharso. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.


What made you want to start collecting art? What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
As a photography student in college, I frequented a lot of museums to see how great artists paint their subjects. These visits eventually grew my interest and passion for art. Over the years I have become more involved in the art scene in Indonesia, meeting people in the industry, fellow collectors, and artists— which helped me grow my love for collecting as well. The motivation behind collecting is mostly to surround myself with inspiration and also for personal enjoyment. I found that art excites me, it feels like taking me to a different world and different frame of mind. On a professional note, art helps me become more open-minded and think out of the box by trying to understand how artists convey messages through their works.

When did you fall in love with a piece of art? What was it?
One of the first pieces that I recall falling in love with was The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. I first saw this piece in the Huntington Library in Pasadena during my college time. As a photography student, I was amazed at the subject’s pose and outfit, and the painting’s lighting and composition. I used to spend hours at the Library studying the painting (this was before information and images were readily available) as reference for my photography and subjects.

A monumental art piece by Hanafi matches the tone of the living room. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

A spacious interior with artworks by Putu Sutawijaya, Teguh Ostenrik, Tromarama, and Hanafi. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

What is your focus regarding the artists in your collection? Are you more interested in emerging or established artists, local or international artists?
I collect mostly Indonesian contemporary artists from my generation, but I also collect a few pieces of art from international artists. I think it is important to collect and support local Indonesian artists, and I often also encourage others to do the same. To me, Indonesian art is very deeply rooted in the country’s rich cultural background and political landscape. Through my collections, I get to ponder on the history of Indonesia, our present, and think about the future of the country.
My collection comprises a variety of media: paintings, photographs, video art, installations, and new media. I appreciate all forms of media as they speak to me on different levels and are enjoyed in different ways.

What is the theme that unites all the works you have acquired?
Part of my collection has a common theme of being dark, some pieces that I am attracted to are unusual because the subject matter tends to be heavy or grotesque to some people. In my work as a photographer, I deal with light and beautiful themes that revolve around happiness and unity. However, I believe that real life is not always happy and bright, so I like that my collection serves as an interesting juxtaposition. But I am always open-minded and don’t have a particular style that I specifically collect.

Several art works by Yusra Martunus, Agus Suwage, Eko Nugroho, and Gregorius Sidharta. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

How has your profession as a photographer influenced your perception of art and collecting?
Photography is a form of art and expression for me. There are key principles that are similar in my photographs and the art I collect which is the harmony of composition, color, contrast, use of space, and texture. Because of my profession, I am more exploratory and more willing to get out of my comfort zone in terms of the artists and subject matters I collect.

An artwork by Agan Harahap above a working desk. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

What were the first and the latest artworks you purchased?
The first artwork I collected was probably a photography work during my school year. The latest addition to my collection is a piece by Indonesian street artist, Farhan Siki, which I bought during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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How many artworks do you own? Where do you display your collection?
I have around 300 artworks in my collection. I display most of them in my home and my office as I like to enjoy them and draw inspiration from them in my everyday life.

A painting Christine Ay Tjoe above the bed. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

Have you ever presented/ Would you wish to present your art collection publicly?
I have presented some pieces of my collection publicly. In 2012, I had a joint collector exhibition with my friend Wiyu Wahono at Galeri Seni Kunstkring in Jakarta. I have also had a few joint exhibitions in Indonesia with other collectors throughout the years. Internationally, I have displayed my Christine Ay Tjoe piece in the SongEun ArtSpace in Seoul in 2015 and one of my Agus Suwage paintings at the National University of Singapore in 2008. I enjoy exhibiting my collection because it gives the public a chance to enjoy my artwork and also for others domestically and internationally to become familiar with Indonesian artists.

On the wall are two works by Heri Dono and J. Ariadhitya Pramuhendra respectively. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi

What considerations guide you to make a purchase?
My first impression of a piece and whether that piece speaks to me is very important. Before making a purchase I will also do my research on the artist’s background and concept, and whether or not it is coherent to my current collection.

What is your most treasured artwork?
This is a difficult question, as I love every piece in my collection. Over time my fondness for certain pieces also grows corresponding to my life experiences. During this pandemic, I have spent a lot of time at home with my collection so I find that there are some pieces that I enjoy more than before because I have more time to appreciate them.

A balanced and harmonised space with various works by Ariadhitya Pramuhendra, Heri Dono, Fajar Sidik, Affandi, Hanafi, and Iriantine Karnaya. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

How do you connect with the artists you are interested in or are collecting?
Luckily, I have been friends with many of the artists I collect or are interested in collecting through meeting them at exhibitions, studio visits, or the Indonesian art scene. I have also had wonderful chances to work on various projects with them, such as my book project I am currently working on.

A work by Angki Purbandono and its reflections are having an awe-inspiring effect. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

A painting by Agus Suwage. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

How are you involved in the local and regional art scene?
I am the Photography Director of Art Jakarta, a yearly contemporary art fair hosted in Indonesia with a regional and global visitorship. Beyond that, I love contributing to the Indonesian art scene by making books about Indonesian artists and cultural figures. I have published two books: Indonesian Portraits in 2008, and Inside Studios: Indonesian Artists in 2019— together with Alexandra Corradini, Hermawan Tanzil, and Amalia Wirjono. As mentioned earlier, I am also in the process of making another book, which has been a labor of love for the past 15 years. Beyond that, I like to visit exhibitions in museums and galleries, going to art fairs domestically and abroad (all pre-pandemic), I am also a member of a few collector groups in Indonesia.

An art piece by Maharani Mancanagara. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

Can you name three emerging Indonesian artists who should be on our radar?
The few emerging artists that I like currently, and see a lot of potential in are Aditya Novali, Agan Harahap, and Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo.

What are you especially excited about the art scene in Indonesia in 2021?
This period has been an extremely difficult time for everyone, including artists. However, one positive thing that has been coming out of this pandemic is the opportunities that come out of hardship. As the world has been forced to be put on pause, many people have more time to think and reflect on their lives and the time we live in today; recently I have seen many fantastic works being created, and I am excited to see some of the work that will come out of this pandemic.

Indra Leondardi with two works by Ariadhitya Pramuhendra and Heri Dono respectively. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

A salon-style hanging above the bed of various works by Nashar, Erica, Pupuk DP , Putu Sutawijaya, Mangu Putra, and Jeff Koons. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

What was your happiest moment being involved in art?
During the process of making my books, I am always happy during studio visits. An artists’ space is a very personal space where they can share their thoughts and experiences, and create without judgment. I found that during these visits I really get to know them personally and have engaging discussions in a space they are comfortable in.

A sitting room with works by Agus Suwage, Erianto, Nasirun, Indieguerillas, and Entang Wiharso. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

Who inspires you the most in the art world?
I am always inspired by artists who put all their efforts, focus, heart, and mind into their craft and who have a compelling message that they want to convey to other people. As an artist myself, I am always driven by discipline and passion. I am also inspired by collectors who are ahead of their time, discovering and nurturing artists before they become famous and building their collection early.

A sculpture by Teguh Ostenrik is well placed and in harmony with its surrounding. Courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

Related: The Leonardi – Photography & Videography
Instagram: @indraleonardi

A selection of artists Indra collects:
Agan Harahap
Agus Suwage
J. Ariadhitya Pramuhendra
Christine Ay Tjoe
Teguh Ostenrik

This interview was facilitated by Art Jakarta (Art Jakarta Virtual 2020 phase 2, 16 December 2020 – 15 February 2021).

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