ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Agung Kurniawan
* 1968 in Jember, East Java (ID), lives and works in Yogyakarta (ID)

Souvenirs from the Third World
, 1997–1999

During the 1990s, Agung Kurniawan’s works primarily addressed social and political issues, subtly criticizing the violence of the fascist Suharto regime in Indonesia. Following the introduction of democracy in 1998, Indonesian artists increasingly devoted themselves to political themes, while Kurniawan began to turn away from them. For him, the advent of democracy had divested political art of its significance as a medium of criticism and resistance. At this time the art boom in countries such as India and China was spilling over into Indonesia. Art dedicated to political issues commanded high prices on the international market.
Souvenirs from the Third World criticizes this development, something which, in Kurniawan’s view, has led to the commercial exploitation of the political past by artists and the art market. The colorfully painted figures of the installation stand on Indonesian street vendor’s carts, and represent military or mythical beings as well as contemporary artists, jurors, and curators as Pinocchios, clowns, and rats – all of them prepared to sell out. The artist has become a vendor; art has become a commodity – a product that meets quality standards and can safely be put on display. Kurniawan shows up the hypocrisy of the international art world and criticizes a market that presents and sells art from developing countries as souvenirs. (EA)


Souvernirs from the Third World
, 1997–1999