Museum Puri Lukisan or “Palace of Paintings” offers an excellent collection of Balinese art spanning the development of the various artistic styles in Bali, only slightly eclipsed by the collection at Neka Art Museum.
Conveniently located smack bang in the centre of Ubud and set in beautifully tranquil gardens as alluring as the exhibits, punctuated with ponds and sculptures (look for the carved figure almost growing out of the large banyan tree at the back of the garden), four pavilions house the collection, and even the less art-inclined will find a visit here to be well worthwhile. We'd say allow a couple of hours for a good viewing of the collection.
In 1936 expat artists Rudolf Bonnet and Walter Spies, together with Balinese artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad and Princes of Ubud, Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati and Tjokorda Gde Raka Sukawati established the Pita Maha foundation to maintain the standards of Balinese art, and to guide artists from producing fodder solely for the mass tourist market (unfortunately today there’s a lot of the latter in Ubud). The foundation later led to the establishment of the Museum Puri Lukisan with Tjokorda Gde Raka Sukawati as the director and Rudolf Bonnet as the curator, officially opened in 1956 it was the first of its kind in Ubud.
Starting with the east building (to your right as you enter), head in an anticlockwise direction for a chronological tour. Artworks are labelled in Indonesian, English and Japanese, some with a brief explanation, others with less info. Lighting is a little dull in some galleries, which is a pity, as there are many engaging works. Each pavilion gives a short overview of the styles. The east building houses the Wayang Gallery with the oldest works in the collection in traditional Wayang (shadow puppet) style. The flat stylised figures illustrate stories from Hindu epics and folklore. Photography is not permitted in this gallery (but non-flash photography is permitted in others).
The Pita Maha Gallery in the north building displays a collection of pre-war modern-traditional style paintings coving the period 1930-1945. Rich and detailed Ubud-, Sanur- and Batuan-style works are represented here as well as some splendid wood carving. This gallery also exhibits a large collection of the ink works of I Gusti Nyoman Lempard.
The west building’s Ida Bagus Made Gallery exhibits postwar paintings (1945-present) showing a greater Western influence. Notable are works from the Young Artists’ style with flat bright colours and a primitive naivety which originated in nearby Penestanan in the 1960s.
The south building houses the Founders Gallery displaying museum history and temporary exhibitions.
Your entry ticket includes a drink at the pretty garden cafe which also offers meals including set lunches with artistic themes (10:00—21:00). A small selection of books are on sale at the entrance. Occasionally local artists work in the grounds, interesting to witness paintings come to life. Additionally, Museum Puri Lukisan runs a number of art and cultural workshops aimed at giving visitors a deeper understanding of Balinese arts. Classes include traditional painting, woodcarving, dance and offering making and last from one hour to all day. Prices start at 125,000 rupiah.
If you are interested to learn more about Balinese art, head up to Neka Art Museum for the most comprehensive overview in Ubud — about two kilometres north along Jalan Raya. Other art museums in the Ubud area include ARMA, Museum Rudana and the Blanco Renaissance Museum. We’d also highly recommend a visit to Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets in Mas and Threads of Life for some excellent textile art.
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 29th January, 2017.
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