Pondok Permata Hijau, a housing complex in the Setiabudi area, north Bandung, has been around for quite some time. This is where many big European-style, classically-inspired houses with well-manicured gardens are located.
The vast housing complex is relatively quiet and many would not guess there would be an impressive art gallery in the neighborhood.
Griya Puisi Tanpa Kata (the House of Poetry Without Words) is located on Jl. Pondok Hijau Permai Block I, on the corner opposite from the Breeze Hotel, which is a boutique hotel inspired by an artistic design.
Just like the gallery, the hotel’s presence is quite unexpected in a housing complex.
Both the gallery and the hotel are designed by a renowned architect, Tan Tjiang Ay, and owned by the same person, named Nugroho.
Born to a family of batik makers, Nugroho has been exposed to art since he was a child. He had started collecting art in his early 40s back in the 1980s.
During my last visit to the hotel and to the gallery to meet Nugroho himself, he said art was his motivation to build both places.
"I bought some of them (the art pieces) abroad, but large parts of my collection are from Indonesian artists," he said, explaining his admiration towards Indonesian artists, who he said were great in number and quality.
Nugroho then mentioned famed ceramic artists F. Widayanto, Laksmi Sitoresmi, Karja, and painter Srihadi Soedarsono, whose works have adorned both the Breeze Hotel and Griya Puisi Tanpa Kata.
The gallery is actually Nugroho's very own house. This is where his family used to live until his children moved away and settled down elsewhere.
It is an L-shaped two-story gallery that encompasses a small detached one-room apartment for Nugroho and his wife.
He dedicates the rest of his house for art display, including what used to be his children's bedrooms.
According to Nugroho, the idea to open the gallery and a boutique hotel came up after his children grew up and settled in their own homes.
"It is a crazy idea when you think about it -- especially the hotel. But I am not doing it for money because the math won't be on my side," Nugroho laughed.
"This is truly something I do out of my passion for art and something I need to do before I die. My legacy," he emphasized.
The gallery names itself after a book written by Suwarno Wisetrotomo and Farida Srihad, the subject of which is the famous Indonesian painter Srihadi Soedarsono’s thoughts and philosophies. Featured in the book were the collected paintings of Nugroho, his family and friends.
The philosophy in the book was appropriate, since for Nugroho his art collections speak for themselves without words, as beautifully as would a poet.
Nugroho said he curated this gallery himself, which resulted in quite a large number of art pieces and a vast diversification from ancient to modern, from local artists to pieces from foreign lands, from statues to paintings.
Many are from the Orient.
Nugroho himself gave me a tour and when we stopped at each piece he enthusiastically told me its fascinating story. The stories were like a collage of his life and they complemented the experience of marveling at a collection like none other. His passion for art was contagious.
Among his precious and impressive collection in Griya Puisi Tanpa Kata are a pair of statues from the Ming Dynasty coins, and a statue and relic from the Candi Sukuh temple.
Nugroho said it is a semi-private art gallery, but visitors are welcome within business hours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
A prior appointment is required to visit the gallery, which one can make by contacting the Breeze Hotel in Bandung.
While visiting the gallery, do stop and marvel at Nugroho's other collections that adorn the Breeze Hotel right across the street.