The Balinese devotion to the arts is infectious and it has made the island a melting pot for international and local artists to come together to collaborate and create. If you’re looking to study art in Bali, dive deeper into your own practices, the Balinese artists and teachers are happy and excited to share their personal experiences and welcome you into their art studios.
When tourism in Bali began to take off in 1965, the Balinese made a declaration that, “Tourism should be for Bali, instead of Bali for tourism.” Because art and ceremony are such a huge part, if not the biggest part of Balinese life, this meant that the island would be preserved in a way that the traditions and customs of the indigenous people were not lost or impeded by an influx of foreign visitors - but rather adhered to and celebrated as a welcoming of foreigners into a very different way of life.
In 1979, as a part of Bali’s devotion to what is now known as “cultural tourism,” the governor, Prof. Ida Bagus Mantera, opened up the very first Bali Arts Festival. His intention was to create a common ground in which the love of the arts in Bali could remain the backbone of the culture - a space where traditions could grow and diversity joined together to celebrate.
The Arts festival, still going strong, typically takes place around mid-June each year, and is a month long celebration where people from every regency of Bali come to share offerings of dance, music and beauty. The Balinese take great pride in this celebration, and would in no way be too far fetched to suggest that it is the cultural event of Indonesia. The festival is thus a unique opportunity to see local village culture "live" and tourists are warmly welcomed.
From the intricate weaving found in Sidemen, to the jegog bamboo gamelan orchestra of Negara, or the genyek singing of Karangasem in the East of Bali, there is a sampling of almost every Balinese tradition and craft. There are competitions in dance, trance dancing, cooking competitions, and art and music of every kind. This event is an incredibly special time not just for tourists, but for the Balinese to be a tourist in their own country! Many are experiencing the unique trades of their neighboring regencies for the first time.
Whether you visit Bali during the Bali Arts Festival or not, you’ll find it hard NOT to get creative during your stay. With the Balinese so passionate about sharing and teaching, there are plenty of art opportunities for you to join in Bali.
A few of our favorite art classes to seek out in Bali include:
- Batik dying
- Keliki painting
- Egg painting
- T-Shirt painting
- Wood/Stone carving
- Fruit carving
- Balinese dance
- Bahasa Indonesia language classes
Checking out some of Bali’s Museums is a great way to start to learn about art in Bali. A few of our recommendations are:
1. The Sunari Galleries
Sunari, a simple device made of bamboo used to summon the sounds living within the swirling winds. The Sunari beckons the spirited winds to rush through its many flutes and curls, giving sound and song to the celestial deities. It is this symbol (Sunari) of man's cooperation with nature to invoke the Divine. This symbolism is at the heart of the unique Sunari Gallery.
Set amidst the rice fields, the grass roofed bungalows of the Sunari Gallery house a treasure of artistic diversity. Within and surrounding the many showrooms, nature abounds, displaying the raw character of the natural Balinese artist. Sunari is a place to wander aimlessly in awe of the depth of artistic expression, you can easily lose yourself in the relaxed and special atmosphere.
Brothers and master artists, I Wayan Gabrig and Dana S, founded Sunari applying nature as their primary ingredient. As success came to the brothers they were moved to share their fortune, thus Sunari was established as an artist’s haven, to paint and display works of art. Sunari's unique form and style comes from Gabrig's and Dana's united vision of art, embraced by nature and absorbed in communion with God. They have created a space where art can be deeply and patiently appreciated. Encircled by rice fields, within jungle-like surroundings, the Sunari Gallery brilliantly bends art and nature and offers anyone interested in the arts, an eclectic collection of Bali's finest artworks.
2. Marka Museum
Ida Bagus Marka and partner Ida Ayu Candra have a remarkable story in the Balinese realm of woodcarving. Following a teaching career of ten years, Ida Bagus Marka decided to switch professions to the woodcarving business.
Coming from a woodcarving community and as the head of his village, Marka already knew some of the best carvers in Bali. Prior to the popularization of the art, Gus Aji as he is commonly referred to, hauled a shipment of carvings to Jakarta and sold the lot for $50,000. Unfortunately, a close friend who was living in Jakarta at the time borrowed the money for a quick turn over and to this day, Gus Aji has never seen it returned.
Back in Bali, broke and owing the entire consignment of carvings, Gus Aji took up carving, and gradually over the years, Gus Aji and his wife Ayu Candra have created a woodcarving empire where their 150 staff are treated like extended family and the grounds of the museum are like a king's palace.
In the years of growing, Gus Aji was always primarily interested in the art and wisely kept aside the masterpieces that came his way. The Marka Museum of Master Balinese Carving is an extraordinary tribute to many artistic genius' past and present. Ida Bagus Marka and Dayu Candra truly represent business in Bali, for their success is in their love for the art and their capacity to co-operate on a larger scale. The carvings in the Ganesha and Saraswati storybooks are only a sampling of the master carvings housed at the Marka Museum of Fine Woodcarving.
3. Rudana Museum
Throughout the Trisakti Trilogy, including the covers, we have chosen many paintings from the collection of I Nyoman Rudana. The reason for this is Mr. Rudana is a man of refined taste and the owner of one of Bali's finest galleries. His collection within the museum and gallery covers a vast array of styles and stories, and maintains the highest standard of quality.
I Nyoman Rudana is a patron of the arts with a keen mind for business. The type of business that most interests Rudana is not competitive in nature but cooperative, like the community village organization (banjar) in which his life and work are grounded. His personal motto in business is the same as the Indonesian National motto; unity in diversity. The unifying principle of the Rudana Gallery and the other fine galleries of Bali is that they are all in the business of preserving and displaying the masterpieces of Balinese and Indonesian art.
The buildings and grounds of the museum and gallery are a tribute to the grand style of Balinese architecture and landscaping. The exquisite tastes of Nyoman Rudana are not just in art but also in the creation of a refined artistic environment in which many can draw inspiration and delight in resplendent beauty.
Bali also offers some incredible galleries. A few of our favorites are:
Ewa Oceanic Sepik Art Gallery - Ubud, Bali
Sika Gallery Paintings - Campuhan, Ubud, Bali
Hansen Art Gallery - Sanggingan, Ubud, Bali
Oman Gallery - Sanggingan, Ubud, Bali
Neka Art Museum - Sanggingan, Ubud, Bali
Pranoto’s Art Gallery - Paintings & Painting Classes in Ubud, Bali
The Blanco Museum - Ubud, Bali
In every temple, each offering and piece of art is created to protect and preserve their Divine union and selfless service to the Gods in all areas of their lives. The heavenly presence of love is felt in Bali in a way that changes a person forever. Often times, people will visit Bali and find that a tap of artistic inspiration has been turned on and continues to flow that can’t be explained. Perhaps it is because the Balinese use their artistic expression as a way of renewing their vows and connecting with the divine deities, for us all.