Art Galleries in Bali - Focus on Contemporary Art

by Michelle Chin

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. However, many of these "art galleries" would be better described as "art shops" which were set up in the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's to 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 gave priority to paintings depicting themes such as traditional Balinese village life, dances, cremation ceremonies, or scenic rice fields.

It is only since the early 1990s 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.

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 privately-owned art museums more frequently show exhibitions of contemporary Balinese art.

Given the increasing numbers of 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 past ten years are warmly welcomed by artists and art lovers alike.
At any time of the year, an art lover can expect to be able to visit several temporary exhibitions of contemporary art 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.

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 facilitate sales of art work by talented women artists. 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.

Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran was established in November 1995. There have been more than seventy solo and group exhibitions at the gallery since that time. The list of who has exhibited there over the past nine 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. Despite its rather small size, this gallery has become one of the most influential galleries in Indonesia.

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. Owner Wayan 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 several exhibitions of work by both local and foreign contemporary artists annually.

Sembilan Gallery is located in Lodtunduh, three kilometers south of Ubud. 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. The gallery holds solo and group exhibitions of contemporary art.

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. Paros Gallery is an alternative venue for solo and group exhibitions of contemporary painting, sculpture and photography.

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." He believes that artists and galleries depend on each other. A gallery cannot possibly exist 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.

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 encourage a diversity of contemporary artistic and cultural expression in an atmosphere which stimulates the emotions and the intellect through a fusion of senses. They organise a fairly full schedule of exhibitions, concerts, installations, video projections and dance performances.

Some other galleries well worth a visit, though with rather infrequent temporary exhibitions are Darga Gallery in Sanur and Komaneka Gallery in Ubud, commercial galleries that could be described as focussing on artists with higher education in the arts and experience living or studying abroad. These two galleries 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.

Michelle Chin is a writer, translator and curator. Her current project is an exhibition titled “Three Balinese Artists: Mokoh, Budhiana and Susena” at Art Forum, Singapore from 1-20 April 2004. Email: michellechin@pacific.net.sg

CONTACT DETAILS FOR GALLERIES:

Darga Gallery, Komplek Sanur Raya, Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai No. 20-21, Sanur. Tel: (0361) 285249. Email: dargaw@indosat.net.id
Ganesha Gallery, Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay, Jimbaran. Tel (0361) 701010
Gaya Fusion of Senses, Jalan Raya Sayan, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 979253. Website: www.gayafusion.com Email: gaya@gayafusion.com
Jezz Gallery, Jl Imam Bonjol 400, Denpasar. Tel: (0361) 483461. Website: www.jezz.com Email: jezz@denpasar.wasantara.net.id
Komaneka Gallery, Monkey Forest Road, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 976090. Website: www.komaneka.com Email: komaneka@indosat.net.id
Paros Gallery, Jalan Pantai Purnama, Banjar Palak, Sukawati. Tel: (0361) 298120. Email: parosart@yahoo.com
Sembilan Gallery, Jl AA Gede Rai, Lodtunduh, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 981587. Website: www.balifineart.com Email: sembilan_ubud@hotmail.com
Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women, Jalan Sriwedari 2B, Banjar Taman, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 975485. Website: www.seniwatigallery.com Email: seniwati@dps.centrin.net.id.
Sika Contemporary Art Gallery, Jalan Raya Campuhan, Ubud. Tel: (0361) 975727. Website: www.sikagallery.com Email: sika@sikagallery.com

[published in Garuda Inflight Magazine, April 2004]