Kunstkring Building – Happy Upcoming 100th Birthday

Submitted by mumunmumun on 23 February 2014   •  Destination

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If I were to turn 100, I’d have the bash of a lifetime. Wouldn’t you? By that age, I would have seen it all, shoulder pads, flannels and ripped jeans, cassette players, to Internet, cell phones, and Miley Cyrus. God knows what’s to come. I might not be able to hear the music of my party that clearly, but I could at least see the hazy confetti falling from the ceiling. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the case for Kunstkring building, as its 100th Birthday would be coming on this April when the Indonesian elections would be happening (any Indonesian reading this, you would be voting, right?). However, rather than having a big bash, the Tugu Group made and are making small memorable celebrations to commemorate such a historical and artsy building. Here are a few that we attended.

Kunstkring - the circle of art


‘East Indies’ Book Review

“What was your most fascinating discovery through your research?” I asked. He smiled in thought.

“That’s a tough question.” Ian Burnet, author of ‘East Indies’ and ‘Spice Islands’, answered.

I had been sitting in his book review for about 30 minutes in awe with the history of my own country. Dang! Indonesia was a gold mine during the colonial days. The Brits, Spain, Portuguese and Dutch came half way around the world, risked their lives and many others with them, just to obtain Indonesian spices which cost a lot at the time. I’ve learned so much in this sitting, such as learning about the cinnamon route, which was indicated from Indonesia, too. I also learned that British once brought spices, which was worth half of all the money in Britain at the time. Wow! I’ve learned that Banten was a significant port, which intrigues me to travel there.

 Kunstkring - Ian Burnet presenting East Indies

Writing this book couldn’t be easy and yet it could be enlightening at the same time. That could have easily been the case for me, as it was about my own country. However, my admiration goes to Mr. Burnet, as he is an Australian and still having the love and effort to dig in to our history with such poor documentation. His research process must have been fun.

“Everything is fascinating in this country. Oh gosh! I’ll have to get back to you on that,” he then said. I’ll take that rain check.

Ironically, the book isn’t easy to find in Indonesia. There are some copies in Bali, but that’s just about it. Sad to say, it was a bit pricey for my budget. To be fair, the book was made of art paper and had colorful pictures in them, most of which were pictures from the past. Alas, for the time being, I can only touch it during the display. But for those that are interested to read all about it, you can contact Ian Burnet through his website www.ianburnetbooks.com or download the e-book version from Dymocks.

And just in case you’d want to visit the Spice Island with Ian, you can check out his trip at http://www.seatrekbali.com/destination/lease-islands/.


An added bonus to this event was seeing the original maps of Maluku and Indonesia from the colonial days, displayed in the background of Mr. Burnet’s presentation. As a map fan, I almost punched Diah in the face, the representative of Bartele Gallery, Kemang – Jakarta, and made a run for it with the beautiful maps. Of course, it would be hard to carry a 1.5 by 1 m framed picture out the door, so I’ll think of another way for another time. I was astonished to see something as thin as paper survived hundreds of years of moth, fungus and dust. I really need to see this gallery.

Kunstkring - authentic maps from East Indies time


Romance at the Paleis

You know that feeling when you’re watching a romantic movie and there’s a scene almost at the happy ending where a couple walks through a corridor of trees, hand in hand, and you feel all fuzzy and warm inside? Ain’t it a good feeling? That was how I felt watching the Jakarta String Ensemble playing for the whole 90 minutes at the ‘Romance at the Paleis’ event. Well, exclude the ‘Dancing Queen’ number because that’s, personally, just a guilty pleasure.

Kunstkring - the luxurious chairs

The Tugu Group had the string ensemble, accompanied by the Monarch Orcaellanum Luminare Choir, performed romantic numbers in their art hall. They played pieces such from Leiberstraum, Traumerei, Salut de Amor, and much more (which I think were) classical songs, to modern songs such as Bruno Mars’ ‘The Way You Are’ and Jackson Five’s ‘I’ll Be There’. Of course, being able to watch it live was an exhilarating experience. To my amateur ears, the songs were played beautifully. There were no complicated music, nothing that lasted more than 5 minutes, and the quality of the sound within the building was fantabulous. It was just like listening to it with my headphones on. A string ensemble does magical things to a song and I had chills after chills sitting through the concert.

Kunstkring - Jakarta String Ensemble and Monarch Choir

It was a romantic night for those who like live performances. Soothing and well-played music can speak to anyone that is in love or can make you fall in love with anything. It was in accordance to Valentines Day being held on the 15th of February. If I didn’t contain myself, I would have laid my head on the shoulders of the Maxx Magazine guy that was sitting next to me just because the music was so tender.

Kunstkring - playing romance at the Paleis


I have to say, I was delighted to see the conductor, Astri Soemantri, put on the largest smile when the ‘Winter Sonata’ was played and lead by a Korean violinist. She was jumping up and down when reminding the audience that it was played in a Korean series too. Seemed like she was a fan of the series and was excited to enjoy the number as an audience. She was draped in a beautiful fuchsia dress and yet was very relaxed and easy-going. Her personality broke the ice of a room of important people, including about 12 foreign ambassadors. I know, right? *smug*


Oh let me add, on both occasions, I enjoyed the company of many people wearing local textiles as in batik and ‘ikat’s, and looked like the high-end kind. It’s nice to be around people that appreciate our ancestor’s fine creation. It’s also nice to see that people take the effort to put nice attires to appreciate the people they came to see, especially in a historical building. 

If the building had a soul, I think it would be happy for the next few months. After all the changes it’s been through, on its 100th birthday it had come in full circle to again function as a place of art and in good shape too, which I can hardly say for a lot of the old buildings in Jakarta. There are more events to come in Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, so be aware of their website and the announcements they make.

Kunstkring Paleis

Jalan Teuku Umar 1, Menteng, Jakarta

Phone: +62 21 390 0 899

Email: kunstkring@tuguhotels.com


Thank you Tugu Group for having us at your events and a special thank you for helping Indonesia’s arts.

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