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.