Return of the Paleis
    Category: Forbes Life By : Jim Read Read : 2414 Date : Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 09:21:38

    Courtesy of Kunstkring Paleis

    Despite a steady drizzle, a festive mood prevailed inside the beautifully restored Kunstkring  in Jakarta on April 17, the exact day the building turned 99 years old, to celebrate its grand reopening as the Tugu Kunstkring Paleis. The 200 or so guests were treated to a raucous ondel-ondel procession (a Betawi folk performance) to mark the start of the event. The guest of honor was Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, who, despite arriving late, was serenaded to the strains of “Bengawan Solo” by a harp-violin duo (in honor of his previous post as mayor of Solo).

    The Kunstkring building, one of the city's iconic colonial jems, is now under the care of the Tugu group of hotels and restaurants, owned by the family of Annette Anhar, 29, who runs the group's restaurants in Jakarta. She helped restore the building to its former glory as a center of arts and culture in the city, as well as a place for eating and entertainment. Annette is no stranger to the Kunstkring building. “I passed it almost every day when I first came to live in Jakarta and noticed how beautiful and prestigious it was, and the potential it had as a heritage center,” she says. “Our mission is to return the building to its original use.”

    The imposing edifice was opened April 17, 1914 to promote and raise awareness of the fine and decorative arts of the then-Dutch East Indies. Later on, Dutch museums lent the Kunstkring artworks and from 1934 to 1939 it hosted exhibitions of world-class artists such as Chagall, Gauguin, Picasso and van Gogh. In addition, one wing housed a popular café called the Stam en Weynes. After its golden era, the building went through a volatile period of owners and uses.

    The Tugu group underestimated the amount of needed repairs. “We were thinking it required just touching-up here and there but it was a pretty big renovation,” says Annette. The wiring, for example, had to be replaced completely as it did not have the capacity to handle the planned electrical loads. The Jakarta government helped out by providing documentation on the original use and decor of the building to Annette.

    Today, the Tugu group has reopened to serve as it was originally intended, as center for the arts and a dining establishment. A gallery shop will offer selected high-quality handicrafts and housewares. When entering the premises, every available space seems to be filled with furniture, artworks or handicrafts—most coming from the private collection of Annette's father, Anhar Setjadibrata, the founder of the Tugu group. These artifacts were previously in storage, explains Annette, awaiting a suitable venue for display. The Kunstkring was therefore an ideal venue. “Some of the paintings in the main dining room were originally on display here during the period 1916 to 1940,” Annette adds.