Q & A with Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN

Jo Stevens, Director of Museum MACAN, Aaron Seeto and Liz McClean

With the first anniversary of the opening of Museum MACAN approaching, we were thrilled when Aaron Seeto found time to talk with us. Aaron is the Director of Museum MACAN, the pioneering modern and contemporary art institution in Jakarta. Aaron spoke about his role, the mission of the Museum, his background and now, life in Jakarta. 

*Kenalkan Aaron Seeto

Please tell us a little about your background? Where did you grow up? and study?
I’ve spent most of my life in Australia. I grew up in Sydney, studied Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong, and worked both in Sydney and Brisbane before moving to Jakarta.

What did you want to be when you were a child? Where did your art journey begin, and / or who inspired your love of art?
I’ve always enjoyed art, thanks to encouraging art teachers when I was in school in Sydney. Besides, art appreciation is very much a part of life in Australia. Having said that, a future in art was definitely something that was a part of my childhood.

You’ve come to Jakarta from Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, as Curatorial Manager of Asian and Pacific Art, and before that Sydney. How does it feel to be involved in the first gallery of its kind in Indonesia?
It’s definitely an exciting challenge! For a start, Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta was not a place that first came to mind when one discussed the art scene in Jakarta. In a way, Museum MACAN has livened up an area that previously was known as a residential and industrial area. 

As a pioneering institution, we have been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve got from visitors from Indonesia and beyond, the art communities, budding art institutions in the region as well as media and bloggers.

It’s been almost a year since our opening, and we hope to continuously engage the wide public in our exhibitions and programs.

Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN, and Chong Siak Ching, CEO of National Gallery Singapore, at The Obliteration Room (Courtesy of Museum MACAN)

Describe your current role?
As a Director, I design the programs for the Museum, in line with the Museum’s missions. 

Besides, I oversee the day-to-day operation at the Museum – I have a team of over 30 members handling different departments including Curatorial, Exhibitions, Education, Development, Visitation, Design and Communications & Marketing. On the ground, we have a Security Team as well as over 100 museum Assistants.

Aaron Seeto welcoming friends of the Museum at the launch of Children’s Art Space, which features the commissioned installation titled ‘Kotak Utak-Atik’ (The Tinkering Box) by Gatot Indrajati (Courtesy of Museum MACAN)

Why is it important to have a space like Museum MACAN in Indonesia at this time?
Indonesia has always had a vibrant art scene and a great pool of artistic talents. Now that Museum MACAN has opened, great talents have a platform to showcase their works and share them with the international audience.

What part does education play in Museum MACAN?
Education is a core mission of the Museum. Together with our Major Education Partner, the Museum regularly host Sponsored School Visits, design exhibition-specific Children’s Museum Guide and Education Resources Kit and commission artists for the Children’s Art Space. 

A child interacting at ‘Kotak Utak-Atik’, a Children’s Art Space commission work by Gatot Indrajati at Museum Macan. (Courtesy of Museum MACAN)
A child interacting at ‘Kotak Utak-Atik’, a Children’s Art Space commission work by Gatot Indrajati at Museum Macan. (Courtesy of Museum MACAN)

What can a first-time visitor to MACAN expect?
We welcome visitors with a space that is warm and welcoming. In the exhibition, we provide texts and facilities (including exhibition tour) to enhance a first-time visitor’s experience at the Museum. Visitors could also join our regular Public Programs, designed in line with the exhibition on view. 

An exhibition tour at Museum MACAN (Courtesy of Museum MACAN)

What upcoming programmes can we look forward to?
We are presenting three solo presentations by three major conceptual artists: Arahmaiani (Indonesia), Lee Mingwei (Taiwan) and On Kawara (Japan) from November 2018 – March 2019. The presentations provide an opportunity for visitors to experience conceptual art, experience performances as well as participate in some of the works. We are currently doing open-call audition for classical singers, dancers, actors, presenters and radio DJs to perform in a number of artworks in the exhibition. 

Lee Mingwei – Portrait by Matteo Carcelli (Courtesy of Museum MACAN)


About Aaron Seeto:

What gives you energy?
Maybe a better question for me would be ‘What sustains me?’ In fact it’s the knowledge that you can make a difference. This is the reason you work in the Arts, especially in a non-profit sector as Art means something and should be better understood. Art can make a difference.

Who do you find inspiring and why? 
There are many people. The influence of my high school art teacher certainly sparked my intellectual curiosity towards art. To this day I strongly believe that kids should be learning all about art and music as a compulsory part of their education. It is integral to their emotional and intellectual growth.

What are your interests outside of art?
It’s really difficult to separate art from life. My friends are artists, my travel usually involves art. However, I do like to be active in exercise.

What are your regular print and digital reads?
I read pretty widely. When we first moved to Jakarta, blogs were an important part of my reading material. I always like to keep up with what’s happening abroad. I regularly read The New York Times, The Financial Times, to name a couple. 

Favourite Apps?
I really do try to spend the least amount of time on my phone as possible. Of course this can be difficult but as a general rule, I do not check my phone during dinnertime or when I am with people. I know that the traffic app ‘Waze’ is very popular in Jakarta but I quite like not getting fixated on Jakarta’s traffic situation. To me what I like about the traffic in Jakarta is that it fluctuates. It’s a bit like an organism constantly changing, growing and shrinking. It has a life of its own. 

Favourite place to eat in Jakarta?
You can usually find me having my breakfast here at 1/15 Coffee MACAN. 

Jakarta has great food. And in order to enjoy it properly, you have to be adventurous. We like to eat at a range of places. For instance, lunch often consists of local street food but then later on, dinner might be at a fancy restaurant.

Tea, Coffee or Juice? And where?
I think I’ve considerably increased my coffee intake here in Jakarta because the coffee is so good. Maybe the Melbourne influence on Jakarta’s coffee scene has something to do with this. 

Your favourite place to visit in Indonesia? Or place you would like to visit?
I would really love to get out and learn more about the natural beauty of Indonesia. There are just so many different things and places to explore. 

3 words to describe your Jakarta?
Complex, Busy and Surprising

* Kenalkan Let me introduce


Selamat – Congratulations Aaron and your team on the upcoming 1 year Anniversary of Museum MACAN.

There is a real sense of community at Museum MACAN, and it’s that connection we appreciate and enjoy; along with the environments you curate which encourage conversation and dialogue. All of which support your mission of being a gallery for ‘all of Indonesia’. 

Liz & Jo 



Aaron Seeto is the Director of Museum Macan in Jakarta, Indonesia. For more information about the museum please visit: Museum Macan

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Let’s stay in touch : Instagram

Words : Aaron Seeto, Liz McClean & Jo Stevens  Photography : a journey bespoke, and Museum MACAN

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