Lot 1047
  • 1047

Hendra Gunawan

Estimate Upon Request
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Hendra Gunawan
  • Ali Sadikin pada Masa Perang Kemerdekaan (Ali Sadikin during the Independence Struggle)
  • Signed and dated 12-5-78
  • Oil on canvas


Acquired directly from the artist by the late Mr. Ali Sadikin
Private Collection, Indonesia


Agus Dermawan T. and Dr. Astri Wright, Hendra Gunawan: A Great Modern Indonesian Painter, Ir Ciputra Foundation, Archipelago Press, Jakarta, 2001, pp. 57 and 146-147, Colorplate 77


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is some stable craquelure visible across the surface of the work, but this is consistent with the age of the work. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals minor spots of restoration along the surface and edges of the work, primarily at the green helmet in the bottom right corner, at the sleeve of the t-shirt and the hair of the man at right. Framed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Sotheby’s is honored to have the rare opportunity to offer a masterpiece hailing from the distinguished collection of the late Mr. Ali Sadikin, the former governor of Jakarta. Ali Sadikin Pada Masa Kemerdekaan by Hendra Gunawan stands as the most significant work in his remarkable compendium, presenting an image that explicitly reveals the revolutionary effects this statesman had on the artists of his nation. During his term, the legendary governor, colloquially known as Bang Ali, empowered struggling artists by providing them with the facilities and support necessary to promote themselves and ultimately preserve Indonesia’s rich cultural identity. As a result of his progressive mind and impenetrable determination, artists came to enjoy a level of freedom never before seen in modern Indonesia. As one of many artists touched by the efforts of his charismatic leader, Hendra Gunawan gave the present lot to Mr. Sadikin as an expression of his thankfulness.

The zealous modern artist Hendra Gunawan was passionate about depicting the lives of the common folk, urging him to become a political painter for LEKRA (Institute for People’s Culture), an organization associated with the PKI (The Communist Party of Indonesia). However, when an attempted communist coup in 1965 prompted a nation-wide anti-communist purge, anyone associated with PKI or LEKRA was siezed and imprisoned. Mr. Sadikin learned about Hendra Gunawan’s incarceration through Adam Malik, Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and immediately felt a sense of profound compassion for the captive artist. In order to bestow the painter with a virtual escape from his debilitating circumstances in prison, Mr. Sadikin would continually send him canvases and art supplies over the course of his harrowing thirteen years of detainment. In addition to allowing Hendra Gunawan to continue his art practice, the consistent deliveries from the governor caught the attention of the prison wardens, who subsequently gave the artist favored treatment, alleviating his daily struggle in the prison.

Having never met Mr. Sadikin in person, Hendra asked political prisoners from president Sukarno’s close circles to describe the leader’s facial features and physical build in order to conceive the composition of the present lot while in penitentiary. Upon his release from prison in 1978, the thankful artist painted this premeditated work and granted it to the obliging statesman as a token of his gratitude.

In Ali Sadikin Pada Masa Kemerdekaan, Mr. Sadikin is portrayed in a scene from an era decades prior to the painting’s conception: the historical struggle for Indonesian independence. In a comprehensive interview with MATRA magazine, Mr. Sadikin explains how he got to know the artist. The interviewer described, “Hung on the other wall is a painting by Hendra Gunawan that measures 3 x 4 meters. The painting was made in 1978 and describes the involvement of Bang Ali in Clash 1, when the Dutch invaded Tegal.[i]

One of Hendra’s first history paintings after his return to society, the present lot renders Mr. Sadikin as the cynosure of all eyes, ensconced within a motley crew of guerrilla fighters armed with the likes of machine guns, rifles and bayonets. Teeming with whimsical details, assorted facial expressions and body movements, the composition is vibrant yet chaotic. The minutia within this work undoubtedly showcases Hendra’s vivid imagination and photographic memory, as it manifests facets from an earlier age. In the foreground, two soldiers lean towards each other in order to share the spark from a rolled cigarette. Another man looks on as he smokes a pipe. While facing Mr. Sadikin, a soldier bearing a green countenance clutches on to a cob of corn, which served an integral source of nutrition during the destitution of the time. The artist deepens the work by incorporating a glimpse into a distant scene, consisting of a group of fleeing civilians against a parched landscape.

Straddling on a slick Harley Davidson within this vortex of commotion is the composed and confident protagonist, Mr. Sadikin. Garbed in white attire and with his field binoculars, the dashing leader stands out against the plethora of soldiers clothed in colorful patterns of traditional lurik batik. His body language is so telling of his controlled yet spirited demeanor, and his act of examining a guerrilla’s rifle suggests his hands-on nature and ability to guide his people. His reliable and valiant deportment provides a sense of assurance to the soldiers facing him.

The panoramic composition is convoluted with a succession of individuals spanning the width of the massive work. Due to his limited exposure to life outside prison, Hendra began delving deeper into the art of portraiture during his incarceration, causing him to pay more attention to facial features in the works he painted even after his release. Featured in this painting is a self-portrait, modestly and respectfully located beneath his revered leader. With long hair and a pointed beard, Hendra Gunawan’s presence an interesting addition to the work as he rarely painted self-portrait prior to his prison years.

It should be noted that a mustachioed and bearded Gatot Subroto, a celebrated military general, is featured on the right of Mr. Sadikin. Though Gatot Subrot was a beloved war hero during the revolutionary period, it is clear that in Hendra’s calculated composition, it was Mr. Sadikin that was greater hero. The present lot serves as homage to Mr. Sadikin’s unrecorded heroism. It divulges the artist’s immense admiration for him, while its very existence reveals his everlasting appreciation for the leader’s sincere kindness and patronage.

Painted immediately after his release from Kebon Waru prison, the present lot reveals Hendra’s state of mind upon his return to society of a fully operative New Order state. Here was a chance for Hendra to employ a wide canvas to veritably embrace his newly acquired spiritual and physical freedom. Though by 1978, the Dutch presence in Indonesia may have relegated to a dark corner of national history, Hendra’s own persecution may have reminded him of the nation’s oppression at large. This work delivers a personal insight into an earlier preoccupation from another historical epoch altogether, one that rose to the surface of Hendra’s mind during his internment.

This evocative painting truly embodies Hendra not merely as an emotional artist, but also as a poet, a political activist, and a patriotic citizen of Indonesia who unwaveringly stood up against injustice and colonialism throughout his life. The sheer scale of the canvas befits the scope of the glorious revolution and expresses the weight of Hendra’s adoration of Mr. Sadikin. As one of the most meticulously executed compositions ever painted by Hendra, it is obvious that the artist exerted his efforts on this work in order to present Mr. Sadikin with a special and treasurable gift. Sotheby’s is truly privileged to exhibit this magnificent painting to commemorate a leader who responded so devotedly to the needs of his national artists and also, to celebrate an artist so integral to the history of modern Indonesia.

[i] MATRA Magazine, “Ali Sadikin: Saya Gubernur Paling Keren”, No. 53, December 1990