Guided by Strong Instinctive Ideals

Penny Wen

Amidst the stunning growth of Indonesia’s art scene, one name stands out as one of the most prominent art collectors and curators: Penny Wen. With over 30 years invested in loving, collecting and promoting artwork on an international level, Penny has a keen eye for each artist’s genuine brilliance represented in their work, and she values their passion for the craft above all else. Penny was kind enough to share some time with Asia Dreams to talk about her artistic ideals and her impressive art collection.

Q: How did you come to develop such a strong affinity for collecting art?

A: While not having a formal background in art, over the past 30 years I have nurtured and developed my own instinctive ideals, which has guided me toward the artists and pieces I have purchased for my personal collection. The majority of my collection was purchased between 1990 and today and in some ways reflects the trend across Asian countries over this period, with increasing numbers of individuals acquiring art as a medium to express their own connection to their home country and the wider art scene of Asia.

I am not beholden to a single style, or period or country of origin, but rather see my collection reflecting my instinctive ideals and spanning a variety of artists, thus creating a collection that a very wide audience shall hopefully enjoy.

Q: What qualities do you look for when curating newcomer artists and measuring their creative potential?

A: There are many talented artists in Indonesia and across Asia, but for me the real point of distinction is their individual passion. In addition, as mentioned above, I must also be totally connected to the pieces that I am purchasing for my collection and almost view each addition to my collection as another piece for my living room wall at home.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your favourite pieces or series in your collection at the moment?

A: Some of my favourite pieces are by the Vietnamese maestro, Bui Xuan Phai. Partly my attachment to these pieces stems from my upbringing in a traditional Chinese family, where we would all watch the Chinese opera as much as we could and also at home we really enjoyed listening to the opera music as well. In addition, I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam and meet Bui Xuan Phai’s wife and his son.  His son looks after all the remaining pieces that the family still retains.

Q: What are your thoughts on Indonesia’s own contemporary art scene?

A: Indonesia’s contemporary art scene has continued to grow quickly and really flourish not only in the major cities but importantly across many regional cities also. Indonesia’s most high-profile artists are now well known across Asia and into Europe and North America and this provides enormous encouragement to younger artists as well. The contemporary art scene has also benefited from an increasing number of individual collectors and the greater appreciation of art across a broader section of the population.

Q: Who is your all-time favourite artist who keeps inspiring you to love art?

A: All of the artists that I represent provide me with significant inspiration for the contemporary art scene both within and outside Indonesia and underpin my love of art. From a historic perspective, some of the true maestros of art that I have had in my collection are Hendra Gunawan, Affandi, Basuki Abdullah, Adrien Jean Le Mayeur De Merpres, Bui Xuan Phai and Popo Iskandar.