He was born in Bogor, West Java, on 13 August 1929. His original Chinese name was Hoe Tjoe Henk, yet people knew him as Hendra Hadiprana or Oom Henk (Uncle Henk). Up to the second millennium, he was a famous art collector. The Visual Arts magazine put him on the list of one hundred Indonesian principal collectors from 1957 – 2007.
Oom Henk never took things lightly when it came to viewing, evaluating, and predicting the developments in an artwork creation, along with observing painters' lives and their behaviours. He was perhaps the only Indonesian collector that saw paintings as a small part of art and artists. A big part of the process was their artistic concepts and perspectives, the kinds of life they lived, the extent of their spirits, their stamina, and their energy to make advancements in their creative pursuits.
A pioneer in art
“The most important question to me is how to offer architecture and interior not as just a place but also as art that has an individual touch." Hendra Hadiprana.
First and foremost and even before expanding Indonesia's fine art, Oom Henk was an architect with the Midas touch. He began his career as an architect after graduating from Akademie Minerva Afdeling Architektuur, Groningen, Netherlands. He chose to come back to Indonesia to build an infant country and rejected the generous offer of a high position in the Netherlands.
Oom Henk's decision was right, soon after his arrival back to Indonesia, he made his own firm. In 1958, Hadiprana Design Consultation Firm was established and began to introduce new design concepts to the public. Following the success, he made Hadiprana Gallery in 1962. Making him the first gallery owner in Indonesia.
The essence of traditional Indonesian aesthetics is repeatedly shown in Hadiprana’s ideas, sketches and selection of artworks. The fine details went not only for the structural patterns and designs for buildings but also the characters of objects as esthetic elements of the interior design in creating a complete artistic environment.
He once said, “I will be greatly disappointed to see artworks that are visually good, but lack capacity to show the artists’ hearts, souls and intellectuality." In such case, what we have is something like treachery committed by the artists' hands to their own lives."
Hadiprana Gallery is the first art gallery in Indonesia. From 1962 to today, it commemorate its 61st anniversary on 1 April 2023. As one of the longest-operating galleries, it is a noteworthy achievement that the gallery has continuously distinguished itself to preserve and introduce Indonesian culture to the world.
Upon returning home after his graduation in the Netherlands, Oom Henk saw his beloved capital city close to despair, poor and difficult to live in. But, amid the appalling conditions, he discovered an art oasis. There was an art exhibition in the Des Indes Hotel, situated on the street of Gajah Mada in the Harmony area. It was like a dream come true. Afterwards he realized that fine arts could appear anywhere and in any condition. Although the surrounding wasn't conducive, there was hope because Indonesian artists persisted in giving the country the artistic seeds to grow.
Based on these observations, Oom Henk became close to many renowned artists of the day. The artists and art creators gave the same message; to build an art gallery. Soon he partnered with Oetojo Goemilang, who made Oom Henk's idea more doable. Oetojo Goemilang offered the funding, and Oom Henk would take the manager position. Supported by Oom Henk's beloved wife, Mrs Jennewati, he was able to manage the gallery professionally.
In 1970, as his partnership with Oetojo Goemilang ended, Oom Henk developed Prasta Pandawa into an all-new concept. He relocated the gallery across the street and named the new space Hadiprana Gallery.
Under his full ownership, Hadiprana was free to develop a new mission as he saw fit to explore more opportunities to offer and sell fine art to a greater public. The growth of Hadiprana Gallery made it necessary to relocate to a bigger venue. Thus Mitra Hadiprana at Kemang no.30 was born to accommodate Hadiprana Gallery friends and business partners who shared the same mission for Indonesian art.
Hadiprana Gallery went through four phases in its growth:
Every period has its own obstacles to overcome and results to enjoy. The challenge is not only to stay true to the vision of promoting Indonesian art but to educate the public on how to preserve and make Indonesian tradition relevant at any time.