When visitors to Bali ask where they can see see the finest examples of Balinese art, they are often directed to the Neka Art Museum in Campuhan, close to Ubud. For someone looking to get an overview of the development of Balinese art, as well as the influences of foreign artists in Bali, there is no better place.
The museum is located on Jl. Raya Campuhan in Sanggingan which is actually NW of Ubud, about 10 minutes drive from downtown Ubud.
The Neka Art Museum was founded in 1982 by Balinese artist and teacher Pande Wayan Suteja Neka who wanted to document the history of paintings inspired by the Balinese environment.
The Neka Art Museum was opened on the 7th of July 1982 by Dr. Daoed Joesoef, the Indonesian minister of Education and Culture. He realized along with Suteja Neka that a quality museum containing a comprehensive selection of art from Bali’s most famous artists would be a source of inspiration, information and education.
The Neka Art Museum is neatly laid out and contains the work of Balinese artists as, well as other Indonesians and foreign expats. The museum is open daily from 9am – 5pm and admission is 20,000rp, free for children 12 and under. Visitors are asked to sign the guest book and state the amount they paid to avoid corruption, which is a good thing. The entrance of the museum is distinct and easy to find for first time visitors and the parking area is quite large.
Entering the building you will sign in at the Entrance Hall on the ground floor. Available at the Entrance Hall are a wide range of books, postcards of selected works from the museum.
The upper level of the Entrance Hall houses and extensive non-lending research library. Public toilets are on the lower level.
Adjacent to the Entrance Hall is the Reception Pavilion where you can relax and enjoy refreshments.
Walking through to the first part of the display you will enter a long rectangular hall divided into 4 rooms. These represent the 4 stages of Balinese painting.
The first room has a display of painting in the Kamasan or ‘puppet style’. Classical �wayang� 2 dimensional figures are depicted in Indian epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata and Balinese-Javanese romances. Artists include Mangku Mura and I Nyoman Mandra
The second room contains paintings in the Transitional style, which show stylistic and aesthetic factors from indigenous and foreign sources. This influence started in the late 1800’s in the north of Bali and the human figures have a natural appearance. Artists include Ida Bagus Rai and I Gusti Ketut Kobot.
The third room contains paintings in the Ubud style which first appeared in the 1920’s and feature western concepts on aesthetics, light, shadow, depth and anatomy. Foreign artists such as Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet lived in the Ubud area and were among those responsible for introducing these ideas. Artists include Anak Agung Gede Sobrat and Dewa Putu Bedil.
The last room shows examples of the Batuan style paintings which are have less influence of western aesthetics. The style originated from Batuan village in Gianyar in the 1930’s. The paintings appear dark, with somewhat cartoons-like figures showing modern day scenes from everyday life. Artists include I Made Budi and I Wayan Bendi.
Passing through the Balinese Painting Hall you come to the Arie Smit Pavilion to the right. Arie Smit was a Dutch expat living in Campuhan since 1956 and influenced a group of local artists known as the Young Artists. Arie Smit’s work uses vivid color and ‘fractured colors’ depicting landscapes, relaxing youths and quite temples.
The ground floor hall features works by the Young Artists who originate from the 1960’s, from the village of Penestenan. Arie Smit gave young teenagers painting materials and encourage them to paint freely featuring bold unrealistic colors, an absence of perspective and expressionless figures. Subjects include colorful native scenes of ceremonies, rice harvests and daily life.
Contemporary Balinese Painting featuring other Balinese humorous ink paintings and supernatural themes are also on display. Modern styles from cubism to abstract expressionism are also featured. Artists include I Nyoman Tusan and I Made Sumadiyasa.
Across from the Arie Smit Pavilion is the Photographic Archive Center which features the photographs of American Bob Koke who was conjunct owner of the Kuta Beach Hotel which opened in 1936. The photos are all black and white and village scenes as well as festivals and cremations from the late 1930’s to the 1940’s. Bob Koke’s most important photos are those of the Kecak and Legong dances dances and those of the famous Kecak choreographer I Wayan Limbak.
Bob Koke’s wife Louise, author of the well known book ‘Our Hotel In Bali’ has labels from her book attached to some of the photos.
The next pavilion along is the Lempad Pavilion which displays the work of I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Bali’s most famous artist. Lempad’s style is strong ink lines colored with touches of gold and red describing Balinese folk tales and Indian epics. One part of Lempad’s work is the series of drawings on ‘Men and Pan Brayat’, a famous folk take about the ups and downs of a poor family.
The next pavilion is the Pavilion of Contempory Art and this rectangular building features works by Dullah, Adbul Aziz, Anton Kusila Widjaja and other Indonesian artists. Western painting techniques are prevalent in these works and this style is sometimes referred to as ‘Academic’, as it does not fit into any of the 4 main Balinese styles. The best work in this section are the oil paintings by Anton H who was originally from Java and lived in Bali till 1969.
The second section is the Abroad on the upper floor featuring some of the most famous foreign artists who have lived in Bali including Rudolf Bonnet, Willem Gerard Hofker, Donald Friend and tropical scenes by Theo Meier. There is a sculpture of Suteja Neka by Wayan Winten as well as paintings by Louise Koke, Walter Spies and Miguel Covarrubias. There are also many paintings by other Asian artists including Malaysian artist Chang Fee-Ming, Singaporean Teng Nee-Cheong and Japanese American Paul Nagano.
The Temporary Exhibition Hall next to the Entrance Hall showcases works by new and established artists from Indonesia and abroad and are available for purchase.
A leisurely 2 hours would be enough to wander around and view all the exhibits. In between pavilions is the Meeting Pavilion which is an open sided bale with seating that allows visitors to take a breather from the art and enjoy a drink in the fresh air.
The Neka Art Museum is managed by the Yayasan Dharma Seni (Art Devotion Foundation).
Tel: (0361) 975074
Fax: (0361) 975639
Open daily from 9am – 5pm
Sunday noon – 5pm