Dutch Residence’s Art Diplomacy

Dutch Residence’s Art Diplomacy


Located on a major street in Menteng, one of Jakarta’s most central and famous residential areas, the New Objectivity style Dutch House, designed by Han Groenewegen in 1948, is known for its long-standing history between Indonesia and The Netherlands. It serves as the official residence of H.E. Lambert Grijns, the current Dutch ambassador to Indonesia. The artworks in the residence became part of diplomacy between the two countries, and some of them are the ambassador’s favourites.

Story by Iman Hidajat | Photos by Bagus Tri Laksono

In 2020, the Dutch residence was renovated for the third time in its sixty years. The renovation created an opportunity to bring the interior up with newly selected art and design by Dutch artists, which creates a new contemporary feel to the house. Researched and curated by Philippien Noordam, the collection of artworks in the house belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Indonesia Design talks with H.E. Lambert Grijns, about the art diplomacy the Dutch Residence in Jakarta represents. “The artworks displayed in the official residence are part of the cultural diplomacy between the two countries. They are mostly the works of Dutch artists inspired by the Indonesian culture,” he explained. “It is to show that Indonesia and the Netherlands are not only bound by the long historical relationship but also with each country’s arts and culture,” he continued.

H.E. Lambert Grijns

Indonesia Design also talks with Sadiah Boonstra, writer of Art and Design in the Dutch Residence book. Commonly in each embassy and the official ambassador’s house, works of art from the country it represents are displayed; Sadiah started the conversation. “Here, in the Dutch residence, you can see all the arts carefully researched and curated to become part of the diplomacy between the two countries. The artworks might be subjective for some, but they will be permanently displayed in the Dutch residence.”

Upon entering the residence, guests will be welcomed by a tall stained-glass window depicting the coat of arms of the eleven provinces of the Netherlands. This window is positioned right above the stairs leading to the second level. It’s worth noting that the stained-glass window was not originally included in the design and during the construction of the residence in 1948. Instead, it was installed in the 1960s as part of the first renovation. However, it is important to mention that the twelfth province, Flevoland, was missing from the stained-glass window. Flevoland
was established in 1986, long after the creation of this particular stained-glass window.

Here are some highlights of the artworks found around the residence:

Caramel (2017)

Willem van den Hoed

Caramel is Willem van den Hoed’s photograph of cityscapes taken from hotel rooms across the globe suggests a motionless scene from a fixed camera position. In reality, these photographs consist of hundreds separate photographs taken over a number of days, documenting the varying intensities of sunlight and colours of blank walls.

Company of Women (1953)

Otto Djaya

Otto Djaya, together with his brother, studied and worked in Amsterdam during the late 1940s. An entirely self-taught artist, combat and warriors are common themes in his work, but he also painted calm, cheerful, or contemplative scenes. Company of Women can be understood in the context of Otto’s idea to counter colonial stereotypes of Indonesians while highlighting their lived realities.

1.11 Cast Metal Lamps (2015)


1.11 Cast Metal Lamp is the first design by Demakersvan that uses casting technology. The leaning lamps are inspired by the weight of cast metal, its low centre of gravity, and a child’s spinning top.

Temple Complex, Prambanan by Djokjakarta (1803-1826) Christoffel de Wilde

Christoffel De Wilde’s painting is the oldest in displayed at the residence and depicts the archaeological site of Prambanan from an elevated foreground. The highly stylised temples show that the painter imposed his romanticised interpretation of the temples.

Axis Mundi (2019)

Jacco Olivier

Axis Mundi or ‘axis of the world’ represents a centre between two worlds and it symbolises the search for an opening to a new world of painting. Jacco is known for his practice of fusing ideas about painting with filmmaking.

Meshmatic Chandelier (2017)

Rick Tagelaar for Moooi

Launched in Milan in 2017, the Meshmatic Chandelier is made from wire mesh that distributes light from the LED light source in a very sophisticated yet subtle way. The light creates changing transparencies and reflections due to the different tiers of the chandelier.

The Boroboedoer (1926)

Marius Bauer

In 1925, Bauer spent four months
in the Netherlands East Indies to prepare a gift for the Silver Wedding Anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina
and Prince Henry. When Bauer visited Borobudur, he made three etchings. For each etching offered to Queen Wilhelmina, 100 impressions were made as sets for different government and private institutions.

Six Portraits Photos (2013-2017)

Marco van Duijvendijk

These portraits of girls in various school uniforms were made during five trips to Indonesia between 2013 and 2017. Van Duijvendijk chose these images because
he liked the girls’ expressions. He views his photos as testimonies to his encounters with people, and their culture and a way to communicate real life.

Javanese Nanny

Jos Seckel

Jos Seckel lived and worked as a painter and graphic artist in The Hague in the early twentieth century. He likely had seen Indonesian helpers in The Hague and asked one of them to pose for his portrait.

Geert Koster for Montis (1961)

Having lived in Italy and worked in interiors, exhibitions, furniture, product, and industrial design, Geert’s Montis Enzo chairs combine minimalistic silhouettes and clean lines with exceptional comfort.

Annoyed Architecture #2

Koen Taselaar

Taselaar’s broad artistic practice includes drawing, illustration, collages, ceramics, and textiles.
His visual language is informed by the materials he works with and his skater background which is deeply inspired by Bauhaus principles. Taselaar created these quirky, colorful glazed ceramic vases during his month-long artist- in-residency program in Jingdezhen, the ceramic capital of China.

Himalayan Spring (2002)


Nature, especially the tree, is an important theme in Warffemius’s works. In many of his artworks, references to plants and trees are reduces to their bare essence. His extreme abstractions result in simple stylized trees and trunks with a few branches, sometimes with a leaf. Warffemius’ works are balanced, strong, and poetic.

As an official residence, the house is designed to hold large and frequent receptions, including formal dinners. The modern dining room features a stunning contemporary chandelier called “Light Shade Shade” by Jurgen Bey from Moooi giving the high- ceilinged room a sense of drama.

The Dutch residence displays the historic and present-day artworks in appealing harmony. This strong European artistry combined with Indonesian characteristics fits the purpose of art diplomacy with breathtaking results.

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