Lot 1058
  • 1058

AFFANDI | ARI (Affandi, Raka and Iwan)

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD
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  • Affandi
  • ARI (Affandi, Raka and Iwan)
  • Signed, dated 31-12-1957 and 1958 
  • Oil on canvas 
  • 130 by 150 cm; 51 by 59 in. 


Raka Sumichan, Affandi, Jayakarta Agung Offset, Jakarta, Indonesia, 1987, p. 91, color illustration
Sardjana Sumichan, Affandi Volume I, Bina Lestari Budaya Foundation, Jakarta and Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2007, p. 92, colorplate 018


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is evidence of craquelure and cracks to the pigment at areas of the thicker impasto, but this is consistent with the age of the work and the nature of the medium. There is some active flaking to the pigment at the orchid pot and at the brown pigment on Affandi's face. There are some losses at the yellow pigments and at the brown pigment at Affandi's face. There is some light buckling to the canvas. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals no sign of restoration as viewed. 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

Patronage and Pilgrimage: The Making of an Artist

Ground-breaking, unorthodox and evocative, Indonesian artist Affandi is one of Southeast Asia’s most daring painters from the 20th century. A self-taught artist, Affandi drew purely from a painterly instinct, imparting his works with an original, inimitable quality. As opposed to the idealistic Mooi-Indië (Beautiful Indies) style that dominated the earlier half of the 20th century, Affandi sought to express an unadulterated reality of Indonesia, documenting both the beauty and bleakness of his homeland with emphatic color. The blunt lyricism of his works earned international praise at the 1954 Venice Biennale, acclaimed for his novel approach to expressionism in the already well-established field.[1] A visual lexicon composed in his idiosyncratic taste, Affandi’s oeuvre is unparalleled for his artistic ingenuity and emotive touch. The works in this prestigious collection are testament to the artist’s ease in both portraiture and landscape scenes, each picture created with equally stunning prowess. ARI (Affandi, Raka and Iwan)  is a rare portrait of Affandi’s biggest collector, Raka Sumichan, and his son. What makes this painting exceptional within his vast canon is the inclusion of Affandi himself in the scene, directly affirming the personal relationship he had with his sitters. This intimate connection extended through Affandi’s 1970 Expo series – the artist was personally invited by Sumichan himself to visit the technological spectacle in Osaka, Japan. Tower of the Sun is a striking piece from this integral time in Affandi’s career, starring the titular structure rendered in his vibrant, abstract vernacular.

An homage to both a friend and patron, ARI is undoubtedly one the most art historically import works from Affandi’s vast and varied oeuvre. Uniquely composed and rooted in sentimental value, the portrait’s exceptional qualities are unparalleled amongst the other greats in his opus. On the 31st of December, 1957, Affandi painted this masterpiece seated on the floor in the late Raka Sumichan’s office in Surabaya. Though the artist is famously known for completing masterpieces within the short span of an hour, this piece took an elaborate three hours to finish. The following day, on the 1st of January, 1958, Affandi returned to check the details of the painting, work on some finishing touches, and finally sign and date the work ‘1958’. This meticulous attention to detail is a conspicuous divergence from Affandi’s customary practice, underscoring the personal significance of ARI for the painter himself. Set in the intimate and personal office space for his patron, the scene features Affandi, Sumichan and his son bathed in a cozy yellow light. The rustic tones of yellow ochre and brown testifies to the amicable congeniality the maestro shared with his sitters, leaving viewers privy to an intimate scene of companionship. Sumichan is seated comfortably on his vintage swivel chair, surrounded by his abounding collection of porcelain wares, books and art. Chinese Celadon Ceramics in earthen hues of green are perched on the shelves behind him, and a Yuan blue and white plate is presented proudly on the other side of the wall. The painting on the far-right corner draws reference from one of Affandi’s other paintings, its inclusion in Sumichan’s study acts as a visual clue to the sitter’s long-term support for the maestro. Books are stacked throughout the scene. A black telephone sits on a red table at the foreground of the work, directly in front of a pot of moon orchids that hang daintily over the child. The assortment of objects around the room is a perceptive study of Sumichan’s various hobbies, such as collecting goods, a love for botany as well as literature. Even though buying paintings was an unusual hobby that many chided at the time, Sumichan was before his time, collecting books, antiques, textiles, stamps, and fine art.  

Positioned humbly at the bottom left of the work is Affandi himself. Unlike his subjects, whose gazes are directed away from the viewer, Affandi is engaged directly with the audience. Gesturing towards the Sumichan family, he acknowledges their involvement in his storied rise as an artist. As with all his portraitures, each curve and line of their countenance is executed with an energetic force emblematic of the painter’s rapturous rhythm, enervating the quiet study scene and transforming it into one teeming with ebullient energy.

Decades after ARI was painted, Affandi voyaged to Osaka in 1970, with Sumichan’s encouragement. The whole nation of Japan was gripped by the Osaka expo, and one of the main attractions of the event was a colossal sculpture by Taro Okamoto (1911-96) called Tower of the Sun (Taiyo no to), depicting three faces that represent the harmony of mankind: the Face of Gold, symbolizing the future, Face of Sun, showing the present, and Face of Black Sun, indicative the past. At the time, the daring psychedelic design of the structure shocked the public. Galvanized by his admiration for the tower’s creator himself, Okamoto, Tower of the Sun was a token of Affandi’s appreciation for the monument and its artistry, rendered in his prismatic format. Swirls of black and green emerge from the tower, a departure from its original red and white coloring. Surrounded by the dizzying lights of the expo, Affandi relied heavily on his painterly intuition rather than an objective reality to express his marvel at the overwhelming display.

However, this 1970 Expo was not Affandi’s first time encountering Okamoto’s works. Affandi and Okamoto were close friends, having met in Paris in the early 1950s. A French journalist documents the encounter between the daring visionaries in an extract from Journal ‘Pacific’, La Nouvelle Literaire, 27 January 1952:

“Chance has brought together, at the same time, January 19, and in the same place, Paris, two Asiatic manifestations which have much in common; they are the exhibition of Affandi (at the Mirador Gallery) and that of Okomoto (at the Greuze Gallery)… Here are two painters of the same age – in their forties – one Indonesian, the other Japanese, both of whom are considered in their own countries at the top of the list, and who appear to us to be most representative of the new painting in Asia; but even more, they present and represent the predominant ferment in that region of the world.”

An article written (in the early 1950s) by Jab-Nin Rei-Ghner states:

“The paintings of Affandi belongs neither to East nor West. It is beyond narrow racialism, not belonging to “the school of this” or “the school of that”. Like Okamoto he believes that the true artist is called upon to play the role of a liberator to work with his countrymen to set men free.” (Translation by Tom Dimes.)

Years later in 1970, Affandi would revisit his friendship and aesthetic exchange with Okamato in Osaka, when beholding his contemporary’s towering achievement. An artwork within an artwork, a stylized interpretation of an already abstracted work, Tower of the Sun is telling of the revolutionary spirit at the forefront of 20th century Asian art. Osaka and its technological festivities inflicted an immense cultural shock upon Affandi, the striking sights leaving an indelible impression upon his later works, so much so that he reportedly transitioned from a “figurative expressionist language” into a “visual abstract-expressionistic” tone.[2] The present lot reflected this tangible shift in Affandi’s expressionist idiom, its rapid execution testifying to his desire to capture the colossal structure in brisk, lively strokes.

The late Raka Sumichan recalled that Affandi was particularly determined to paint the Tower of the Sun. Painted in the daytime, the composition is bright and vibrant. His use of a more evocative range of colors is seen in the light green and yellows that compose the metallic roof overhead, subtly mirroring the effect of the expo’s neon lights against the metal surface. Affandi’s preference of using his hands to paint imparts the tower’s features with visceral emotion, its face a picture of theatrical anger. Next to it is a large post of black, yellow and red sculptures laid on top of each other. The arc of each stroke draws the viewer’s gaze upwards, imitating the staggering experience when viewing the monolithic sculptures from the ground. Under Affandi’s riveting strokes, Tower of the Sun exudes an arresting dynamism, capturing the artist’s awe at the technological extravaganza.

Sumichan was passionate about Affandi’s works and could not contain his desire to possess them, such that he was compelled to pay monthly installments for them over the span of decades. The two works in this grouping signify the close relationship between the artist and his collector, serving as a testament to a frienship that would last for decades until Affandi’s very last breath. One year after Affandi’s demise, Sumichan passed away as well. While ARI sheds light on the people and moments that supported the artist throughout his career, Tower of the Sun is reminiscent of the pivotal opportunities that made him rise up the ranks as an artist, as well as the influence his travels had on his oeuvre, and his constant study of the world around him and the works of his fellow contemporaries. A coalescence of stirring colors, this collection of works is a lively demonstration of Affandi’s easy versatility and his visceral talent for rendering the nuances of emotion. ARI and Tower of the Sun are museum quality works with exceptional provenance, so telling of Affandi’s personal story. They highlight the bond between patron and artist, something that made the artist’s career and legacy what it is today.  

[1] Sardjana Sumichan, Affandi, Jakarta 2007, 10.
[2] Sardjana Sumichan, Affandi, Jakarta 2007, 30.