The Newsletter 67 Spring 2014

Sukarno's art collection

Louis Zweers

Sukarno, the first President of the Republic of Indonesia, was an art connoisseur and lover. Following the proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia in August 1945, the President purchased art works on a large scale, either personally or via an intermediary. He bought works by Indonesian artists, and also European painters such as Rudolf Bonnet, Willem Hofker, Roland Strasser, Theo Meier and the aristocratic Belgian artist Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, who had settled on Bali and who was also known as the ‘Paul Gauguin of Bali’. He mostly painted half-naked dancers such as his Balinese wife Ni Pollok. The Dutchman Willem Hofker also painted charming bare-breasted Balinese women. Other favourite subjects for these painters included tropical landscapes, sawas (rice paddies), temples and village scenes: ‘Beautiful Indies romance’. So, how did Sukarno’s extensive art collection become established and what happened to it after his death in June 1970?