Friday, August 1, 2008


Ubud, the center of Balinese painting, Ubud's Museum "Puri Lukisan" has a permanent collection of modern works of Balinese art dating from the turn of the century.
Far from the madding crowds, Ubud has long been a quiet haven for the arts. Set amidst emerald green rice paddies and steep ravines in the stunning central Balinese foothills, some 25 km north of Denpasar, the village was originally an important source of medicinal herbs and plants. "Ubud" in fact derives from the Balinese word for medicine - ubad.
It was here that foreign artists such as Walter Spies settled during the 1920s and '30s, transforming the village into a flourishing center for the arts. Artists from all parts of Bali were invited to settle here by the local prince, Cokorda Gede Sukawati, and Ubud's palaces and temples are now adorned by the work of Bali's master artisans as a result. Unfortunately, the tourist boom has transformed Ubud into a bustling business center, complete with traffic jams and fast food outlets.
According to an 8th century legend, a Javanese priest named Rsi Markendya came to Bali from Java and meditated in Campuan (Sangam in Sanskrit) at the confluence of two streams - an auspicious site for Hindus. He founded the Gunung Lebah Temple here, on a narrow platform above the valley floor, where pilgrims seeking peace came to be healed from their worldly cares. You can get there by following a small road to the Tjetjak Inn on the western outskirts of Ubud, then taking the path down toward the river
In the past, other foreign painters inspired Balinese artists to adopt western techniques but traditional Balinese paintings are still made and sold another museum called NEKA MUSEUM has a wide collection of paintings both by Indonesian as well as foreign artists who used to live in Bali.
Today Ubud is a fast growing town with numerous art galleries and shops offering paintings, wood carvings, textiles, and all kinds of souvenirs. Don't miss the AGUNG RAI GALLERY in Peliatan, and the AGUNG RAI MUSEUM in Pengosekan to see the difference between creative art and more commercial products. Problem is that when you see their "Permanent Collections" at many "Galleries" you've seen real art, and when you return to their show rooms you don't like any of the very commercial products any more.
The SENIWATI GALLERY - ART BY WOMEN, founded in 1991 by Mary Northmore (the very personable wife of famous painter Abdul Azis) to help Balinese women to be accepted as artists, is a place you should not miss whatever you do. The main purpose of this gallery is to expose the long understated brilliance of independent women artists resident in Bali, and to motivate, train, and encourage young Balinese girls with obvious creative gifts.
Visit also the BLUE MOON STUDIO and GALLERY, founded in 1994 with an emphasis on exhibiting contemporary artists.

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