Selasar Sunaryo Art Space (SSAS) began as Selasar Seni Sunaryo, the realization of Sunaryo’s longstanding dream to contribute to, and support, the development of Fine Arts in Indonesia. Today, as an institution, SSAS has become a key player in the arts and cultural landscape of Indonesia.
Building of the not-for-profit Art Space commenced in 1994 and covers an area of approximately 5,000 square metres.The basic form of the buildings was inspired by the shape of “kuda lumping“, a traditional Indonesian cultural artifact. The word “Selasar” reflects the design concept: for an open space that connects one space with another, and acts as a bridge between buildings. The ultimate concept of “Selasar”, also reflects the aim of the space to connect artworks with audiences and to bring different cultures together.
Selasar is also an ‘open’ space in the sense that admission is free and the gallery welcomes the broadest possible cross-section of the community. SSAS prides itself on offering opportunities for all to enjoy the arts, and focuses on arts education. SSAS is also responsive to projects and initiatives proposed by others when suitable.
Selasar Seni Sunaryo officially opened in September, 1998 with a solo exhibition of Sunaryo’s works entitled Titik Nadir [the lowest point]. The exhibition reflected the artists concern with the Indonesian socio-political situation at the time. It was a time of chaos and hopelessness for many Indonesians: the Soeharto regime collapsed along with the economy and many people were suffering from starvation.
Instead of displaying his works for this long awaited opening, Sunaryo chose to conceal his artworks and parts of the buildings with black cloth. He was mirroring his shaken creativity, and his feeling that he had come to his lowest point, i.e. the Nadir Point. The concealed, wrapped artworks that should have been exhibited had in fact become a new artwork. On the gates of the gallery, on a piece of black cloth Sunaryo wrote:
“The catastrophe in our country has forced me to conceal and cover all these works. As I have mentioned, in 1998 I have lost my energy to create artworks. Rage, sadness, and anxiety have frozen everything, depressing me to my lowest point. The process of concealing these works is itself an artwork, an interaction… Binding, folding, embroidering. I never knew I could feel so numb and conceal my artworks. I’m just waiting for the country to begin to smile.”
From its inauguration in 1998 to 2002 Selasar Sunaryo Art Space completed a number of renovations as well as developing and adding some additional facilities to support Fine Art Exhibitions. A number of large scale exhibitions and arts performances have been executed.
Some of Sunaryos sculptures are still concealed; and corners of the buildings are still covered by black cloths. The black cloths are fading and decaying. The building has a long story and struggle.