Next time somebody describes Jakarta’s art scene as “burgeoning” — you can tell that somebody: Indonesia’s capital city has been brimming with museums and exhibits across the board for awhile now.
We’ve got arts and culture centers, noteworthy galleries, and special interest spaces showcasing exhibitions on fine art, modern art, history, heritage, finance, textiles, and even… shipping. Many of the larger ones are housed in regal buildings from the colonial era – which make for quite the impressive sight on their own – with a few newer contemporaries that stand out for their sleek structures.
And, to the visitors among us: Even if museum-going isn’t at the top of your bucket list during your time in town, just know that they’re definitely worth a look – even if it’s just to while away an afternoon or get to know the country’s history and culture. (P.S. if you need an app survival guide to the city, we’ve got you covered.)
Go forth and get your art on, friends.
Initially known as Mon Décor Gallery when it opened in 1983, this institution is one of the scene’s pioneers and has grown to become a rather respected name in the city over the years. In 2011, it reinvented its fine art gallery concept and transformed into a museum to showcase the works it collected over the decades.
Now, ART:1 displays a revolving line-up of original pieces by modern Indonesian masters, emerging talents, and international artists. It also contributes to art restoration, conservation, and appraisal, with a regular program of art seminars, discussions, and workshops.
Jl. Rajawali Selatan Raya No. 3. +62 21 647 00168. Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-4pm. General admission Rp 100,000 (US$7), foreigners Rp 150,000 (US$10), students Rp 75,000 (US$5), children under 12 Rp 50,000 (US$3).
Nestled in a historic building, the national gallery of Indonesia offers a peek into the history of modern and contemporary art in the country. It’s free to enter, so you can come back for return visits if you find your time there too short.
Start by glancing through a visual timeline of Indonesia’s art history, and make your way to exhibitions spotlighting the works of local and international artists in sculptures, paintings, ceramics, photographs, and more. Besides the permanent displays, you’ll also find limited edition runs with rare artworks such as the collection of paintings from the presidential palace.
Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur No. 14, Jakarta Pusat. +62 348 33954. Free.
Located in Jakarta’s Old Town (Kota Tua), this place goes by many names, including Museum Sejarah Jakarta and Batavia Museum. It’s housed in the former city hall building of Batavia, built in 1710 in the classic Dutch renaissance style and with a dark history of imprisoning Dutch and Indonesian rebels in its infamous dungeons.
The museum itself debuted in 1974 as a space for the conservation of cultural and heritage items stemming from Jakarta’s past. Focusing on the colonial era, the collections bring you back in time with a rich curation of 17th to 19th century Betwai-style furniture, alongside paintings, ceramics, weapons, and objects from the Dutch East Indies Company.
Jalan Taman Fatahillah No.1, Pinangsia, Tamansari, Jakarta Barat. +62 21 692 9101. Tues-Sun 9am-3pm. Adults Rp 5,000 (US$0.35), children Rp 2,000 (US$0.14).
Take a trip across Indonesia to view textiles from different parts of the country for a glimpse into the culture and how these traditional materials are interwoven into local life. From batik and beadwork to ikat and tapestry weaves to ceremonial clothing and natural dyes, the collection consists of mostly donations that have trickled in since it was established in 1976.
Those interested in getting hands-on can join the batik classes for a better appreciation of the process. Once you’re done exploring indoors, step outside to the little garden and walk among plants that provide the dyes for many of these textiles.
Jalan Aipda Ks Tubun No.2-4, Tanah Abang, Jakarta Barat. +62 21 560 6613. Tues-Sun 9am-3pm. Rp 5,000 (US$0.35).
Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari)
Stroll across these spice warehouses built by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s for a look at the maritime sector of Indonesia, with traditional boats and other sailing items on display. Unfortunately, an electrical fire erupted at the heritage complex in January this year and razed down more than half of the priceless collections, but the museum is currently still open to the public to showcase what was salvaged from the blaze.
Here’s where you can pore over information about the archipelago nation’s shipping industry, with showcases on boat building and navigation instruments, as well as wax figures of famous seafarers like Marco Polo, Cheng Ho, and James Cook.
Jalan Pasar Ikan No. 1, Jakarta Utara. +62 21 669 2476. Tues-Sun 9am-3pm. Adults Rp 5,000 (US$0.35), children Rp 2,000 (US$0.14).
Founded by Bank Indonesia in 2009, this educational museum sits in a stately colonial building at Jakarta Old Town as an introduction to the financial evolution of Indonesia. Through multimedia displays and dioramas, you’ll learn about the history of Indonesia’s economy, trade, and monetary development, view vintage currencies from across the globe, and get an introduction to the nation’s central bank.
Those who want to delve deeper into the displays can sign up for a guided tour around the premises. Even if you’re not naturally curious about finance, the museum also makes for a gorgeous photo op, with its high ceilings and distinguished heritage details.
Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No.3, West Jakarta. 021-260 01588 ext. 8111. Tues-Fri 7:30am-3:30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm. Guided tour: Tues-Sun 8am, 10am & 1pm. Rp 5,000 (US$0.35).
Another bank museum situated just within a block of Museum Bank Indonesia, this one’s a majestic Art Deco structure with ornate architectural details like stained glass windows that’ll transport you right back to the 1930s, when the former headquarters of the Netherlands Trading Society was constructed.
Apart from a brief overview of Indonesia’s monetary history, you can wander around the introduction to one of the country’s biggest banks, complemented with exhibits like banking artefacts and loads of antique equipment.
Jalan Lapangan Stasiun No. 1, Kota Tua, Jakarta Barat. +62 21 690 2000. Tues-Sun 9am-3pm. Rp 5,000 (US$0.35).
Across the road from the Jakarta History Museum, this art space calls the old Dutch Supreme Court of 1870 its home, with evidence of its former magnificence in towering columns, marble floors, and spiral staircases.
Sections here are dedicated to well-known Indonesian artists, with an array of rare, ancient ceramics and porcelain crafts. The colonial-era building also exhibits hundreds of fine art pieces all the way from the 1880s to present day, including works by renowned Indonesian names like romanticist artist Raden Saleh and expressionist painter Kusama Affandi.
Jalan Pos Kota No. 2, West Jakarta. +62 21 692 6090. Tues-Sun 8am-3pm. Adults Rp 5,000 (US$0.35), students and children Rp 2,000-3,000 (US$0.14-US$0.20).
Labeled as the first of its kind in Indonesia, the museum opened late last year as part of a growing trend of private boutique museums owned by ultra rich art collectors popping up in Asia. A polished white cube structure designed by architecture firm Met Studio London, the space has already presented the works of global bigwigs like Yayoi Kusama, Park Seo-Bo, Jeff Koons, and Andy Warhol, alongside Indonesian household names such as Raden Saleh and Kusama Affandi.
This concept by Indonesian philanthropist Haryanto Adikoesoemo, an art collector hobbyist who has amassed an eclectic range of international works, not only spotlights renowned names – it also commissions new work from artists. Basically, you’ve got lots to explore across the various galleries, as well as a multimedia room, a children’s area, and an indoor sculpture garden.
AKR Tower Level MM, Jalan Panjang No. 5 Kebon Jeruk, Jakarta Barat. +62 21 2212 1888. Tues-Sun 10am-8pm. Current Yayoi Kusama exhibition: Adults Rp 100,000 (US$7), students and seniors Rp 90,000 (US$6), children Rp 80,000 (US$5.50).
Dedicated to the history of the Indonesian independence movement, the museum is located in a 1900s building called Stovia. It was originally a colonial medicine school before becoming the birthplace of Budi Utomo, the country’s first political society, which was influential in kick starting the revolutionary Indonesian National Awakening.
As a tribute to its past, the museum exhibits old photos, historical artefacts, and dioramas depicting the daily lives of the students back then. Aside from that, the contemporary section focuses on the beginning of modern medicine in Indonesia.
Jalan Dr. Abdul Rahman Saleh No. 26. +62 21 384 7975. Tues-Fri 8:30am-3pm, Sat-Sun 8am-2pm. Rp 5,000 (US$0.35).
Built on the grounds of a cemetery – where prominent individuals such as Indonesian youth activist Soe Hok Gie and Olivia Mariamne Raffles, first wife of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, were buried – the gothic-esque graveyard is the oldest of its kind in Jakarta, officially opened in 1797.
The outdoor museum itself hosts the remains of the old resting place – and although the bodies are no longer underground, the tombstones are still well preserved, which makes for quite the photogenic (albeit slightly eerie if you’re alone) spot to capture the ancient, authentic monuments scattered all over the memorial park.
Jl. Tanah Abang No. 1, Jakarta Pusat. +62 21 385 4060. Tues-Sun 9am-3pm. Rp 5,000 (US$0.35).
An intricate part of Javanese culture, puppetry is often used to tell stories, and this space is an homage to the art form. The 1912 neo-renaissance building, which used to host the former Batavia Museum, was inaugurated as Museum Wayang in 1975. Devoted to the theatrical performance that is wayang, the space features thousands of two- and three-dimensional puppet varieties, including ones made from leather, wood, coconut leaves, and grass from Indonesia and beyond.
Those keen on seeing the puppets come to life can settle in to watch the free performances, and perhaps take one home with you at the gift shop.
Jalan Pintu Besar Utara No. 27, West Jakarta. +62 21 692 9560. Tues-Sun 9am-3pm. Adults Rp 5,000 (US$0.35), children Rp 2,000 (US$0.14).
Art aside, the building itself is legitimately a gem of Indonesia. A must-visit, the National Museum is resplendent in its 1862 structure, and home to a massive collection that ranges from archaeology and ethnography to numismatics and geography, offering an insight into the country’s vibrant history and cultural heritage.
The exhibits cover such vast grounds that if you only have time for one museum in Jakarta, then this will likely be it. Quite the enriching experience, a tour around the museum brings you through gorgeous woven textiles and intricate batik clothes, glittering jewelry pieces formerly owned by rajahs and sultans, ancient structures discovered across the archipelago, and a look into the origin of mankind in Indonesia. To find out more, join English guides from the Indonesian Heritage Society for a more in depth understanding of the artifacts.
Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat No. 12. +62 21 344 7778. Tues-Thurs 8:30am-4pm, Fri 8:30am-4:30pm, Sat-Sun 8:30am-5pm. Adults Rp 5,000 (US$0.35), children Rp 2,000 (US$0.14).