The head of Buddha, the Enlightened One, is a cultural icon. From the ancient Javanese Buddha in the British Museum to online Buddhas at Amazon, the message of peacefulness is on show the world over. Along the roadsides in Bali you will certainly see thousands of them, mass-produced, but this island is also where you will certainly find uncommon collectors’ pieces, and its cultural capital, Ubud, is at the heart of Indonesia’s flourishing art and design scene.
“Its challenging to find the real ones,” states art-gallery owner Tony Hartawan of these Buddha heads. “They date from the eighth to the 14th century. The head of Buddha, like this one …” he indicates the lifesize sculpture in front of us, “is a minimum of $100,000. Even the great reproductions cost $1,500.”
Tony is the Balinese owner of TonyRaka gallery, which specialises in tribal and contemporary art, and one of the most educated and prominent people on the Indonesian art scene. Big, figurative, contemporary art works rub shoulders with conventional Balinese artefacts. On a vast wooden table on the sleek floor is a collection of rustic pots. “This is from the small island of Savu in the east of Indonesia,” Tony states. “They use them as palm sugar containers, but I show it as an installation. And this is a sculpture from Borneo,” he states of a noticeably tall carved wooden figure. “They put it in front of their long home as a guardian. It has to do with 150 to 170 years old and extremely basic.”
Tony likewise has a permanent exhibition area within the Four Seasons Sayan, where I am staying, and the hotel tailor-makes trips for visitors to explore the art and design scene on the island and take house some initial pieces. The sibling resort, appearing like a conventional thatched village, on the coastline at Jimbaran Bay has a gallery showing regional artists, too. The Sayan resort is something of an architectural marvel – hanging over a river valley situateded in the forest. Early morning voga sessions take locationoccur on the circular lily pond suspended in the sky over lavish gardens listed below. Breathe deeply to the noises of the river flowing and unique bird calls.TonyRaka gallery was
founded by his daddy in the 1960s when travelers found Bali. They came for the island’s browse beaches, but the island province obtained a track record for meditation and yoga too, and people came here to get far from the pressures of Western life. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is Muslim, Bali is Hindu, and shows a feeling of peacefulness, community and wellness. Every day the islanders sweep the streets early in the morning, then shower their houses, shops, natural cafes and myriad temples with little, handmade providings of woven palm leaves including frangipani to please and calm their gods. By the afternoon, these colourful crafts have drifted into the gutters, so that even the most lowly parts of the towns appear blessed.The gallery is on the outskirts of Ubud, a town I initially went to in 1988. Back then, Ubud had what I can just explain as “an excellent energy”, where I wandered the streets freedevoid of headache, immersing myself in the elaborate Balinese architecture, where every building, no matter how humble, has a shrine for these little providings renewed throughout the day.That”great energy”endures, although Ubud’s popularity has
grown, and it’s ended up being the cultural capital of Bali. Now shops buzz with visitors purchasing Balinese materials, homewares, fashion, wood carvings, ceramics, baskets and jewellery, and jazz cafes are a popular night out. Plenty of shops cater particularly to Western visitors, selling in your area made goods that divert from the affordable to the exorbitant.The crafts are typically made in the rural parts of Bali, and across Indonesia. Ubud’s Threads of Life has beautiful batik and ikat sarongs that make detailed, ornamental wall hangings. Profits are gone back to the towns where they are made-40 cooperatives on 11 Indonesian islands.Within the shopping district, around Monkey Forest, is Komaneka Art Gallery, which, in addition to Neka Gallery, is one of 2 cultural beacons of the town.
And to find a historic point of view to the blooming of Balis art connections to the West, significantly when the German artist Walter Spies settled in Ubud in 1927, the Agung Rai Museum of Art is a good beginning point.A half-hour drive from Ubud, I contact at the John Hardy jewellery workshops, a collection of light-filled thatched buildings in the middle of rice fields. Local professionals are making handcrafted pieces from recycled gold. The drawings are produced by an in-house design group, scribbling away in an old farm building that was brought piece-by-piece to the website. The gold and silver collections have global appeal and are looked for by the similarity Harrods, Nieman Marcus and Bloomingdales. It is about as far from a sweatshop factory as you can get.I may not have the area back house for a Buddha nor a long-house sculpture, however a handmade pair of earrings … kindly inform the driver to wait.Getting there: Western amp; Oriental offers an eight-night stay in Bali with 4
nights at the Four Seasons Resort Sayan and 4 nights at the 4 Seasons Resort Jimbaran Bay. The rate consists of breakfast, personal transfers and return flights with Singapore Airlines from Heathrow or Manchester, from 1,989 pp. Check out or call 020Â 7666Â 1234. The 4 Seasons Sayan provides tailormade art trips in and around Ubud.