Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Director of Public Relations Rebecca Leppard says that the five-star hotel’s original art collection cost half as much as the property’s entire Rp 2 billion price tag in the 1960s. Given that then- president Sukarno commissioned much of that art from his favourite painters and sculptures, a walk through the hotel’s public spaces offers a journey through the nation’s artistic history. Guests and members of the public can see why the hotel’s rich history heritage makes it the Ground Zero for contemporary Jakarta. Here’s iD’s must-see list at the hotel:
Photos by Octavio Baldacchino, Bagus Tri Laksono, Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Doc.
This is when the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski heritage walk turns into scavenger hunt. The hotel’s original swimming pool was immensely popular as the first public bathing area of size offered in an Indonesian hotel. Sadly, it is no more, displaced by the Menara BCA building opposite. However, the original statues that lined the pool–most depicting blissful bathing beauties– have been relocated throughout the hotel. While we don’t want to ruin the thrill of the chase in finding the statues, here’s a hint: Start at the Pelataran Ramayana and proceed to the Signatures Restaurant.
‘Life of the Balinese Community’
This exquisite bas-relief sits on the outer wall of the hotel lobby and is worth stepping outside to see, although be mindful of passing cars. Executed by Sanggar Sela Binangun under the supervision of painter Harijadi S, the bas-relief, which spans more than 15 metres, depicts life in Bali in all its myriad aspects, from maidens walking in the field to fierce battles to the raucous crowd at one of the island’s traditional cockfights.
‘Flora and Fauna of Indonesia’
Painted over six months in 1961 by the famed Lee Man Fong, a perennial favourite of Sukarno, this immense triptych can be found just outside the Bali Room. “Many people want to buy the painting,” Rebecca says. “But it’s not for sale. It’s worth billions.” Make sure to take a peek inside the Bali Room to admire its marble columns, oval shaped and floor-to-ceiling batik drapes. In the 1970s, the Bali Room was the place to see up-and-coming talents performing; while in later years the function home hosted the wedding receptions for the children of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Located atop a spiral staircase at the end of the lobby, the Heritage Room (not to be confused with the 16th-floor function room of the same name) offers a mini-museum with exhibits touting the hotel’s storied past. There’s an elaborate phinisi model under glass, as well as several original paintings by artists, including Gabiranom Suhardi. Look for the glass case containing the scissors used to cut the ribbons at the hotel’s most ceremonial events.
At the end of the Nirwana Lounge, admire the dozen heritage photographs on the wall, including one with Sukarno riding a hotel lift during the hotel’s opening. It was actually the nation’s first elevator. Opposite are the lifts themselves. Although updated and quite swank, the contemporary versions are still small, 4-person cabs that give a flavour of 1960s style.
Nirwana Supper Club
Ascend to the hotel’s 16th floor and you’ll find the old home of the Nirwana Supper Club, which offered Jakarta’s first take on sky dining. Currently called the Heritage Room, the relatively narrow function space offers views of the city and the mountains surrounding the metropolis that can still stun. Heritage note: Look for the lively period Picasso-esque mosaic drawing boasting traditional Indonesian ethnic motifs.