Art Galleries in Bali - Focus on Contemporary Art
By Michelle Chin


Ketut Jaya
Getaran Rajah, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 53 x 64 cm
At first glance, Bali seems to be full of art galleries, especially in the tourist resort areas of Ubud, Kuta, Sanur and Jimbaran, with a few galleries located in the city of Denpasar. But if we look more closely, many of these "art galleries" would be better described as "art shops" set up in the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's to simply cater for sales of art work and souvenirs to foreign tourists. Most of the galleries and "art shops" that emerged in the seventies and eighties in Bali were very much oriented towards market demand for traditional and neo-traditional Balinese paintings. Some were interested in contemporary works, but they continued to prioritise paintings depicting such themes as the traditional Balinese dances, cremation ceremonies, or scenic rice fields.

It is only since the late 1980's that contemporary Balinese artists have had some success in promoting and selling their work. Still, it was often difficult for them to find a gallery in which to exhibit their paintings. Until quite recently, the only venues available to them were exhibition halls at the Bali Museum, the Art Centre in Denpasar, or some five-star hotel lobby areas.

Given the increase in contemporary artists in Bali and the lack of suitable exhibition spaces, the commercial galleries with a focus on contemporary art that have opened in the five or six years are warmly welcomed by artists and art lovers alike.

Interestingly, Balinese cultural anthropologist Degung Santikarma notes that "In Bali, the gallery has become not simply a public space or a way to educate people about high art, but has also solidified new social statuses by creating an audience and selecting those members of the public who will be admitted into its exclusive domain. The gallery functions as a barometer of taste and fame, a way to measure the modern day sakti (metaphysical power) shown when one is brave enough to enter this sacralized realm. This sakti is conferred on those artists and art lovers able to enter into the network of collectors, art managers and gallery owners and score an invitation to the modern-day ritual of the exhibition. Middle class patrons speak of empowering artists, helping them to make it in the global market. But isn't it perhaps the artists who are empowering the gallery?"

At any time of the year, an art lover can expect to be able to visit several temporary exhibitions of contemporary art in Bali. At some times of the year, exhibition openings might be scheduled back to back on every day of the week, especially in the week between Christmas and New Year. In Bali, many galleries synchronise their exhibition schedules with major annual holidays and the high seasons for tourist arrivals. At these times they can expect a lot of foreign and domestic tourists, art lovers and collectors to be visiting the island.

Recently I did a quick tour of some of the major commercial galleries in Bali. I decided to limit myself to the galleries which have a regular program of exhibitions scheduled throughout the year, so of course it was no surprise that at each of these galleries there was an exciting show of contemporary art to be viewed and enjoyed.

Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran was established in November 1995 and has an excellent record for holding monthly temporary exhibitions. From November 1995 to May 2001, the gallery has held more than sixty solo and group exhibitions. The list of who has exhibited there over the past five years reads like a who's who of the contemporary Indonesian art scene, and many foreign artists who have lived and worked in Bali have also been given the chance to exhibit there. Ganesha Gallery presents innovative exhibitions of painting, sculpture, photography and graphic art, with the styles of art ranging from traditional to post-modern.

The curator, Ambar B. Arini says, "The numerous alternative galleries and exhibitions that have opened in the last few years are important indications of Indonesia's creative life. They have come into being as forums for presenting new trends and innovations in the arts. We would like to see ourselves as an important part of this phenomenon. While Ganesha Gallery is only one small offering to the greater artistic sphere of arts in Indonesia, we hope to demonstrate the value and importance of high standards and ideals both for the arts and for this gallery. We want to be more than mediators in this equation."

Certainly, Ganesha Gallery has become one of the most influential new galleries in Indonesia. Despite its rather small size, the gallery has had a profound impact on the Indonesian art scene by forging new roads and standards. It has taken tremendous energy and stamina to mount twelve high quality exhibitions per year. And it should be noted that the very clever idea of hosting a regular Monday night cocktail party at Ganesha Gallery has succeeded in becoming a popular event with art lovers, expats and hotel guests.

Ketut Budiana
Tumbal, 1999

Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women, the very first gallery in Asia to deal exclusively with women artists, was established in Ubud in 1991. The gallery aims to expose the long understated brilliance of independent women artists resident in Bali, to train and encourage gifted young Balinese girls who hope to become artists, and to provide income for women with talent but neither the time nor facilities to market their art. Seniwati Gallery hosts a women's life drawing group and a children's class every week, as well as running courses, workshops, demonstrations, performances, and community art projects.

The gallery shows and sell works by over seventy women artists from Indonesia and overseas, all of whom are resident in Bali. The artists exhibiting there have a very wide variety of styles and techniques, from traditional to contemporary. Solo and group exhibitions are held at the Seniwati Showspace, with twelve or more solo or groups shows being held every year.


Made Budhiana
Untitled, 2001, mixed media on paper, 52 x 70 cm
Sika Contemporary Art Gallery provides an exhibition space for creative, forward-thinking Balinese artists, especially those who have displayed skill in multimedia arts and who remain closely identified with the spirit of Balinese art and culture. "We are interested in work that is experimental and new. We want to exhibit art work that is ten years ahead of its time," says owner Wayan Sika. "To motivate and stimulate the creativity of Balinese artists, we invite artists from other parts of Indonesia and overseas to exhibit at Sika Gallery. Through our annual exhibition schedule, we aim to encourage the growth and development of the arts in Bali," he adds.

Sika is himself an artist with a progressive and idealistic vision of the future. To realise his vision, he founded Sika Contemporary Art Gallery in Ubud in 1996. The gallery program focuses on temporary exhibitions and the promotion of contemporary Indonesian fine art. There are at least three exhibitions of work by overseas artists annually, as well as a number of exhibitions by Indonesian artists.

The Gallery at the Chedi in Payangan, north of Ubud was established in March 1998. The gallery has been actively promoting and exhibiting the work of talented Indonesian and international artists through its temporary exhibition schedule, with at least five exhibitions per year, usually with a fairly long run of over a month.

Sembilan Gallery
is located in Lodtunduh, three kilometers south of Ubud. The property includes a gallery, restaurant and lounge situated in open-air rooms overlooking the garden and rice fields. Established in 1999, Sembilan aims to be a premiere venue for a new generation of Indonesian artists. The gallery collection focuses primarily on abstract and expressionist paintings, and has been carefully selected to represent a wide array of contemporary Indonesian art. Temporary exhibitions have featured the work of young Balinese artists such as Ni Made Trishnawati, Ketut Susena, Made Suta Kesuma, Made Wiradana and Ketut Tenang. Sembilan has also staged exhibitions by well-established Balinese artists Nyoman Tusan, Made Wianta and Wayan Karja.

Paros Gallery, in Sukawati village half way between Denpasar and Ubud, opened in December 1999. It is owned and run by Balinese artist Made Kaek. The gallery is located in his family compound and creates an interesting contrast to the traditional Balinese architecture of his home. Kaek established Paros Gallery as an alternative venue for contemporary artists. He has so far held three group exhibitions, all of which were planned around a central theme. The first was a show titled "Between East and West" which featured work by Indonesian artists working in both traditional and contemporary styles plus the work of one Greek painter, the second show featured small-format works, and the third exhibition which was of sketches and drawings by about fifteen artists.

Jezz Gallery, located in Denpasar, had its official opening in December 2000 with a solo exhibition by Balinese painter Agung Mangu Putra. The owner, Gusti Bagus Arimbawa says, "We can no longer limit our role to the buying and selling of works like an art dealer. Jezz Gallery must take a far more important position, that of an agent facilitating public interest in the life of art and culture, in the broadest senses of these terms."

Jezz Gallery idealistically aims to reject relations between artists and galleries that mirror the relations between producers and merchants. Gusti Bagus Arimbawa believes that artists and galleries depend on each other. A gallery could not possibly live without artists, and without a gallery, an artist loses a vital link in the chain connecting his or her work with the public, both in an economic and a dialogic sense. Jezz Gallery wants to pioneer a new trend where artists and galleries walk hand in hand, synchronising their steps as they move toward goals that can satisfy everyone.

Pranoto's Art Gallery in Ubud has been gradually expanding from its initial location to include moving "around the corner" and now has an entrance on the Ubud Main Road. The gallery is run by an artist couple, Pranoto and his Australian wife Kerry Prendergast, both of whom continue to exhibit actively as well as running the gallery. You can expect to see several temporary exhibitions here each year. A major focus of the gallery collection features the results of the life drawing classes which are held at Pranoto's Gallery three times a week and well-attended by both Indonesian and foreign artists.

Gaya Fusion of Senses in Sayan opened in August 2000. The architecture of the building is stunning, with the gallery located downstairs and the restaurant with views to the surrounding rice fields upstairs. The large, open space of the gallery is high-ceilinged and lets in abundant natural light. The owners wish to encourage a diversity of contemporary artistic and cultural expression in an atmosphere which stimulates the emotions and the intellect through a fusion of senses. A fairly full schedule of exhibitions, concerts, installations, video projections and dance performances is planned at Gaya. The gallery collection includes work by Peter Dittmar, Agus Suwage, Filippo Sciascia, Alfi and Antonius Widodo. The most recent show titled "Tribal Treasures" features a selection of jewels and textiles from the major Indonesian tribal cultures.

Some other galleries well worth a visit, though with rather infrequent temporary exhibitions are Darga Gallery in Sanur, Kinnara Gallery in Nusa Dua and Komaneka Gallery in Ubud. These are all commercial galleries that could be described as focussing on artists with higher education in the arts and experience living or studying abroad. They all promote high quality contemporary art work by artists from both Indonesia and overseas, and they each hold several temporary exhibitions a year, with the rest of the time focussed on their gallery collections.

Ironically, it is now the Balinese artists working in more traditional styles who experience difficulty in finding available exhibition venues in Bali. They are limited to the few venues which were available to contemporary Balinese artists just a few few years ago. Now it is much more likely that you will see an exhibition of contemporary Balinese art at any of the commercial art galleries, and even the Bali Museum, the Art Centre in Denpasar, five-star hotels and some of the other art museums are staging more and more exhibitions of contemporary Balinese arts.


Dewa Putu Mokoh
Berenang di Laut, 2003, acrylic and ink on canvas, 60 x 80 cm

CONTACT DETAILS FOR GALLERIES:
Ganesha Gallery, Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran bay, Jimbaran. Tel (0361) 701010
Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women, Jalan Sriwedari 2B, Banjar Taman, Ubud. Seniwati Showspace is located on Ubud Main Road. Tel: (0361) 975485. Email: seniwati@dps.mega.net.id. Website: www.seniwatigallery.com
Sika Contemporary Art Gallery, Jalan Raya Campuhan, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 975727. Email: sika@denpasar.wasantara.net.id. Website: www.sikagallery.com
The Gallery at the Chedi, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan. Tel: (0361) 975963. Email: TheGallery@Balimedia.com. Website: www.balimedia.com/TheGallery
Sembilan Gallery, Jl AA Gede Rai, Lodtunduh, Ubud. Tel: 0812 398 4117. Email: sembilan_ubud@hotmail.com. Website: www.balifineart.com
Paros Gallery, Jalan Pantai Purnama, Banjar Palak, Sukawati. Tel: (0361) 298120. Email: parosart@hotmail.com
Jezz Gallery, Jl Imam Bonjol 400, Denpasar. Tel: (0361) 483461. Email: jezz@denpasar.wasantara.net.id. Website: www.jezz.com
Pranoto's Gallery, Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud. Tel: 0812 394 6595. Email: rodanet@denpasar.wasantara.net.id
Gaya Fusion of Senses, Jalan Raya Sayan, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 979253. Email: gayabali@dps.mega.net.id. Website: www.gayafusion.com
Darga Gallery, Komplek Sanur Raya, Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai No. 2021, Sanur. Tel: (0361) 285249. Email: dargaw@indosat.net.id
Kinnara Gallery, Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, Nusa Dua. Tel: (0361) 771210. Email: kinnara@indosat.net.id
Komaneka Gallery, Monkey Forest Road, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 976090. Email: komaneka@indosat.net.id. Website: www.komaneka.com

Note on Contributor:

"There are hundreds, if not thousands of galleries and 'art shops' in Bali. So, I thought it may be time to check out what is on offer in the art galleries in Bali. But where to start? I decided to choose the galleries which focus on my own particular preference which is contemporary art. Even then I decided to narrow down the selection to galleries which have a regular schedule of temporary exhibitions. The experience ended up being a visual feast for the senses."

Michelle Chin is a writer and arts management consultant based in Ubud. She has been living in Bali for most of the past twenty years.

[Published in Island Life, No. 6, 2001]