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Museums of Ubud: Neka Art Museum and Blanco Renaissance Museum

27 December 2010 No Comment

Being the ‘cultural capital’ of Bali, Ubud and the surrounding areas have their fair share of museums and galleries that showcase some of the most brilliant artworks on the island. On our latest visit, we checked out two prominent museums in the area.

Neka Art Museum

neka art museum

The first museum we visited, Neka Art Museum, is located 5-10 minutes drive away from central Ubud. The museum houses an extensive painting collection, and in its brochure claims to be “the heart of art in Bali”. A quick visit to their website reveals which artists and their works are part of the museum’s exhibit. Of particular interest to us are works by Arie Smit and Johan Rudolf Bonnet, as well as renowned Indonesian maestros such as Affandi and Dullah.

The Neka Art Museum consists of several small galleries, housed in several buildings within a Balinese style compound. The layout can be confusing, and fortunately the museum provides a floor plan of the galleries in their catalogue. These can be obtained at the ticketing counter.

Paintings aside, the museum also keep a collection of old photographs from Bali’s past. Looking at these, it is interesting to see how Balinese societies have adapted to the times. An open air pavilion at the back also houses traditional Balinese musical instruments, which visitors can play with.

Blanco Renaissance Museum

blanco renaissance museum

Front entrance to the museum, notice the giant archway

Don Antonio Blanco, whose moniker is “the Dali of Bali”, was born to Spanish parents in 1911. Young Blanco completed his high school education in Manila, and subsequently pursued further education at the National Academy of Art in New York.

Like many artists before him, Blanco (who had lived in different parts of the world and spoke six languages) eventually found a new home in Bali. Having been granted a plot of land by the King of Ubud, Blanco settled in the area northwest of Ubud, on a hill overseeing two rivers. From this new residence, Blanco produced numerous great paintings, many of which are now displayed in the museum. Like everything else about him, Blanco’s two storied mansion -now the museum building- is somewhat larger than life; it’s a huge fantasy-like structure, adorned with enormous stone serpents and a towering archway in the shape of Blanco’s signature.

blanco museum stone naga

Stone naga guardian at the museum entrance

Much of Blanco’s works is focused on the beauty of the female form, with many of his painting featuring nudity and erotic poses. He also created some of the most impressive looking frames to go along with his paintings. There is certain cheekiness in Blanco, evident from the usage of interactive frames, which allow the viewer to move frame parts to reveal more flesh. It was also entertaining to see the Maestro make funny faces in the (serious) family photo. The style adopted by Blanco is distinctly European, yet he also managed to capture the local nuances whenever he used a Balinese subject in his painting.

michael jackson's signature

Guess whose signature is this?

Blanco was a celebrated artist of his time who has received many awards, including the Cruz de Caballero from King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and Silver Medal and Scroll Decoration (Chevalier du Sahametrei) from King Norodom Sihanouk Varman of Cambodia. In his lifetime, many celebrities and dignitaries also visited Blanco and his works in Ubud, including the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. A photo of Blanco and Michael Jackson is displayed in a large book at the back verandah of his studio, as well as a metal plaque bearing Jackson’s signature.

Travel Info

Neka Art Museum
Entrance fee Rp.40,000 (as of mid 2010)
Tel: 62-361-975074
website http://museumneka.com/

Blanco Renaissance Museum
Entrance fee Rp.30,000 (as of mid 2010)
Tel: 62-361-975502
website http://www.blancomuseum.com/
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm daily (including weekends and public holidays)

Both Neka Art Museum and Blanco Renaissance Museum are located quite a distance from central Ubud. The hilly terrain in the area (as well as the occasional sweltering heat) may not be the best condition for walking or biking, so it is best to arrange for transportation to bring you there. Many hotels can arrange this at a reasonable rate.

Photography is not allowed inside both museums.

A recommended stop for meals / refreshment after a visit to Neka Art Museum is the Naughty Nuri’s warung (road side stall), which is located just across the road from Neka. They serve one of the best BBQ pork ribs.

Blanco was a celebrated artist of his time who has received many awards, including the Cruz de Caballero from King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and Silver Medal and Scroll Decoration (Chevalier du Sahametrei) from King Norodom Sihanouk Varman of Cambodia. In his lifetime, many celebrities and dignitaries also visited Blanco and his works in Ubud, including the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. A photo of Blanco and Michael Jackson is displayed in a large book at the back verandah of his studio, as well as a metal plaque of Jackson’s signature.

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