Fenessa Adikoesoemo is not yet 25 years old, but with her hard work and passion for art she is excelling as chairwoman of the first modern and contemporary art museum in Indonesia: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN Museum).

“The idea for MACAN Museum came from my father,” says Fenessa. “He has been an art collector since the 1990s, beginning by collecting artworks from Indonesian artists, which then evolved to international artists. He had dreamed of opening a museum since around 2005, but we really started to establish the museum in 2014, and it finally opened to the public in November 2017.”

Although it was her father’s idea initially, Fenessa’s love of art and her strong interest in the education sector drove her to become fully involved in the museum. “I’ve always been interested in art and have the creative desire in me. And my family and I have always been involved in many things related to education. So, this museum was a good way to unify the two,” explains Fenessa, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce, Marketing and Management from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Fenessa’s training and her passion for art and education are not the only skills she draws on to be able to manage a museum. During the three years of preparation before opening MACAN Museum, Fenessa took internships at two established museums in the United States to broaden her knowledge and experience.

“As the first modern and contemporary art museum in Indonesia, we found it so hard to set everything up at first. There’s no art museum that we can use as a benchmark here. So, I took an internship at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, for three months and at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York for a month and a half,” says Fenessa, who has been visiting museums and art galleries since she was a teenager.

Fenessa admits that she learnt a lot during her internships, but they are not the only museums that have inspired MACAN Museum. “There’s no one museum that we determine to be our inspiration; it’s a mix from many museums. Even though we learnt from others, we have to contextualise to Indonesia. For example, the Hirshhorn and Guggenheim are targeting tourists as their visitors, while our primary market is local Indonesians – so we have to organise our programme to cater to this audience,” says Fenessa.

In the space of just four months, MACAN Museum has become one of the must-visit attractions in Jakarta for art lovers. Approximately 500–700 people per day visit the museum on weekdays, and this number increases to 1,500–2,000 per day at weekends. “We are very happy that the museum has been so well received,” says Fenessa. “It’s beyond our expectations.”

But Fenessa refuses to get complacent. She knows she needs to work even harder to maintain the museum’s success and take it to the next level. One key element is a sustainable programme that engages visitors to the museum, so they won’t just stop by as a one-time visitor. This involves activities including workshops, discussions and much more.

“At the moment we display 90 out of the 800 artworks that my father has. The collection comes from 70 artists from Indonesia, Asia, America and Europe. If we had only displayed the collection permanently, there would be no reason for people to visit the museum again. That’s why we rotate the collection every three months and have a sustainable programme, so people can keep learning something from the museum,” explains Fenessa, who hopes MACAN Museum will become internationally recognised.

While visitors can enjoy the ‘Art Turns. World Turns.’ exhibition at MACAN Museum until March 18, Fenessa and her team have already prepared the next exhibition, which will be a travelling exhibition between MACAN Museum and two other museums in Singapore and Australia.

Alongside her busy schedule at MACAN Museum, Fenessa is also able to find time for not-for-profit work. At the moment she volunteers for HOPE worldwide Indonesia, a not-for-profit organisation that helps the poor and vulnerable. “Contributing in a small way and being able to see the impact that it makes gives me a happy feeling,” says Fenessa, who has also volunteered fo rLeocare and Global Consulting Group.

Fenessa hopes that one day she can also contribute to a not-for-profit organisation that is focused on environmental conservation, particularly marine life conservation. “I love to dive and I hope I can contribute to the prevention of coral deterioration. Our marine life here is like no other in the world, and we need to start preventing the deterioration before it’s destroyed,” she says.

As a diver, Fenessa is happy that Garuda Indonesia has many diving destinations on its network, such as Labuan Bajo and her favourite, Raja Ampat. “Garuda Indonesia has always been my go-to airline because the service is the best,” she adds with a big smile.