Cancelled Prison Art Auction Included Work by Bali Nine’s Soon to Be Executed Myuran Sukumaran

Prison art program benefit auction shut down by prison officials.

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Myuran Sukumaran self portrait.
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Bali Nine inmate Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: courtesy News Corp Australia, News Limited.
Bali Nine inmate Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: courtesy News Corp Australia, News Limited.
Myuran Sukumaran self portrait.
Myuran Sukumaran self portrait.
Myuran Sukumaran, painting of the cross and pole used in Indonesian executions.
Myuran Sukumaran, painting of the cross and pole used in Indonesian executions.
Myuran Sukumaran, portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Myuran Sukumaran, portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Zui Edoardo.
Myuran Sukumaran, signature on the back of a portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Myuran Sukumaran, signature on the back of a portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: courtesy AAP Image.
Myuran Sukumaran, self portraits.
Myuran Sukumaran, self portraits.
Myuran Sukumaran, Bali Nine inmate and artist, with some of his earlier work.
Myuran Sukumaran, Bali Nine inmate and artist, with some of his earlier work. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka, courtesy AFP/Getty Images.
Myuran Sukumaran, self portrait and portrait of fellow death-row inmate Andrew Chan.
Myuran Sukumaran, self portrait and portrait of fellow death-row inmate Andrew Chan.

Jakarta authorities have canceled an auction and exhibition of paintings by prisoners including Myuran Sukumaran. An Australian national and member of the Bali Nine, Sukumaran faces imminent execution, having been convicted for trafficking heroin in 2005.

Australian artist Ben Quilty met Sukumaran and fellow death-row inmate and Bali Nine member Andrew Chan while teaching art classes at Indonesia’s Kerobokan jail (see Australian Artist Ben Quilty Seeks Mercy for Bali Nine). Sukumaran soon became an avid painter, eventually taking over as the instructor and earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Curtin University in Perth via mail.

The prison art class regularly holds auctions of the students’ work in order to fund the program. This week’s “New Lives Through Art” sale hoped to raise money to open a studio outside the prison for former inmates.

Recently, Sukumaran and Chan were transferred from the jail to Nusakambangan Island to await execution.

Prison officials canceled tonight’s event at the Hard Rock Cafe when they came across a poster billing the auction as a tribute to Sukumaran.

“We do not want to be involved in any matters relating to Myuran,” Kerobokan jail governor Sudjonggo told news.com.au.

Though none of Sukumaran’s paintings were going to be on offer, the artist’s portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo was to be on display at the event. The painting is signed with the message “people can change.”

Auction organizer Oivind Zahlsen, a Norwegian academic, told the AAP the offending flyer was unofficial, calling the auction’s cancellation “a shame because this event and this project [have] never been political.”

Despite the auction’s cancellation, 21 of Sukumaran’s paintings will be exhibited in the Netherlands beginning March 30. The show, which will also travel to London, has been organized by Denmark’s Tania Albers, who has been visiting Sukumaran since 2006.


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