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On the eastern side of Puputan Square is the Museum Bali. Erected in 1932 by the Dutch, and with the subsequent assistance of Walter Spies, it attempts to present a historical account of Balinese culture within an architectural framework.
Housed in Tabanan, Karangasem and Buleleng styles of architecture, the museum illustrates the two types of construction in Bali: temples and palaces. The split gate, outer and inner courtyards, and kul kul drum typify the temple; while the thatched roofs, ornate windows and verandahs characterize the palace.
The main two storey building located at the back of the entrance courtyard, houses traditional artifacts from Bali’s prehistory, including a massive stone sarcophagus. There are also two black and white photographs documenting the 1906 puputan at Badung.
The first pavilion was designed in the Singaraja style of architecture and contains textiles including endek (ikat), geringsing (double ikat) and silk songket. The second pavilion, built in the style of an 18th century Karangasem palace, houses religious and ceremonial artifacts. The third pavilion is reminiscent of Tabanan palaces and displays the masks, costumes and puppets associated with music and dance.
The museum's contents are a little disappointing, as some items are poorly labeled and rather haphazardly arranged. Nonetheless, the museum is worth visiting for the examples of architecture, and it does give the visitor an idea of the history and culture of the island.
The museum is open: Tuesday to Thursday 7.30am 1.30pm. Friday 7.30am 11.30am. Saturday to Sunday 8arn 12pm. Closed Monday.
Le Mayeur Museum
The former home of the Belgian painter, Le Mayeur (1880 1958), who arrived in Bali in 1932 at the age of 52. He lived on the outskirts of Denpasar until captivated by the young Legong dancer, Ni Polok. Said to be stunningly beautiful, she regularly posed for the artist and they later married and moved to the residence in Sanur. The house has been maintained as a museum by the Indonesian Government since Ni Polok's death in 1985.
Built on the beachfront, much of the original 1935 dwelling remains. The low roofed wooden house is quite impressively decorated with ornate carvings, gold and red doors, and window shutters displaying carved scenes from the Ramayana. Most of Le Mayeur's work was undertaken in the tiny garden courtyard which is littered with statuary and shrines. Many of his works are displayed inside, but there's a surprising dearth of his Balinese paintings.
Le Mayeur often worked in offs but there are also charcoal and photographic portraits. Two of the most outstanding portraits are of Ni Polok, but from the displays, it's obvious she was not his sole inspiration.
The former home of the revered painter and Pita Maha member, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad is on the main street, JI. Raya Ubud. Said to be quite a traditionalist, he was also known for his risque and humorous interpretations. However, the best collection of his work is housed in the Neka Museum. Most of the works contained in his home are those of young Balinese artists, but the bale at the back of the compound does have some memorabilia. Open daily from 8am 6pm.
Puri Lukisan Museum
The Puri Lukisan or "Palace of Paintings" was opened in 1953 by Cokorda Gede Agung Sukawati and Rudolf Bonnet both of whom helped establish the esteemed Pita Maha art society in the 1930s. The society's aim was to encourage painting and the museum marked the deliberate separation of painting from religious life.
The museum has three buildings set amidst landscaped gardens and a lotus pond. Much needed renovations are almost complete. Many paintings have been dusted off, re framed, placed under glare free Plexiglas, and the lighting redesigned to aid vision. Works are now arranged according to schools of art and are appropriately labeled.
The curator is very enthusiastic and helpful, The two main buildings house the permanent exhibitions, while the third is for visiting collections. Open from 8am 4pm.
About a kilometer past the Campuhan suspension bridge is the most comprehensive collection of artistic works on the island. Founded in 1976 by Wayan Suteja Neka, a former art teacher, Ubud collector and art patron, the museum is a series of purpose built pavilions and halls, arranged to take the visitors on a historical journey through Bali's artistic life.
The first room of the first pavilion, past the entrance, focuses on Balinese painting. Classical Wayang (shadow puppet) paintings show stylized two dimensional figures in narratives from the Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. This is known as the Kamasan style after the village where most of the artists lived. In the next two rooms, following the historical route, are works in the Ubud style dating from the 1930s.
The works illustrate the influence of Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet and the Pita Maha collective on fight and perspective. Subject matter is also extended from religious and courtly topics to secular activities. Market places, festivals and daily chores have lent themselves to inspiration. Alternatively, the Batuan style of the same time shows little experimentation with light and perspective. Instead, sombre dark colors and densely packed canvasses were used to parody political and daily situations.
The second building, the Arie Smit Pavilion houses paintings the Dutch born artist on the top level and the so called Young whom he inspired on the bottom level. In the 1960s Smit aged a group of teenage artists to express themselves beyond the confines of traditional styles. Their works were characterized by lack of perspective, bold colors and expressionless subjects.
The third pavilion houses a collection of photographs by Robert Coke documenting ceremonies and personalities in the Bali of the 1920s and 1930s.
Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women
If you've visited the Neka Museum or Puri Lukisan, you may have noticed the dearth of paintings by women. To make Amends, British bom Mary Northmore set up the Association of Women Artists in Bali, out of which grew the Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women. Committed to fostering the development of women artists, both native and foreign, it promotes and displays works, with over 40 artists represented in the permanent exhibition. The group is also committed to teaching young girls holds classes over the road.
All styles are covered from Kamasan to modem and abstract, information sheets and guides are very informative. Well a visit. JI. Sriwedari (off Raya Ubud). Open daily from 10am - 5pm.
Antonio Blanco's Gallery
Past the suspension bridge on the left the gallery is declared with a grandiose and curly sign, "Antonio Blanco", and underneath, The Blanco Dynasty". The one man PR machine, who dubbed himself Bali's Dali is at best eccentric and at worst pretentious. His exhibition features erotic and fantasy drawings of his Balinese muse and wife, Ni Ronji, as well as several multimedia pieces illustrating his bent sense of humour. The arrangement of works is flamboyant, if not slightly camp, with a huge easel in the middle of one room to set the scene. You might run into the bereted Blanco mincing about his parlour it'll make your day.