Some of the very first outsiders who came to Bali did so for the art. It was the 1920s German painter Walter Spies, working first in Ubud and then in Sidemen, who introduced modern art to Bali and Bali to artists—and set the dream of the creative Bali lifestyle that’s being carried out by millions of digital nomads today.
The island of the gods is awash in art, from traditional Balinese carvings and high-color Spies-style oils, to rare Indonesian antiques and concrete Buddhas. You can even pick up a gaudy canvas in the souvenir shops that churn out fake sunglasses and Bintang T-shirts.
But much of the art in Seminyak is worth a second look. Almost a century after Spies, working artists still flock to Bali. They’re drawn not only by creative inspiration and year-round warmth but the lure of a cost-effective base. So look beyond the usual suspects of elephants and orchids, kitschy Balinese dancers and well-padded Buddhas, to something more contemporary.
Art in Unlikely Spaces
A diverse range of Seminyak spaces host occasional commercial exhibitions. Positive Negative, while not having its own gallery, offers high-color pop art oils by Tracy Hamer in the foyer of Cocoon Beach Club. Wine store and eatery VIN+ boasts a gallery space upstairs. And Seminyak’s epicenter of all things skeletal, Skull, doesn’t just show customized fiberglass craniums and retro horror movie posters in its upstairs space—it sometimes offers independent exhibitions.
Some of Seminyak’s best art spaces are tucked away. The brainchild of Susanna Perini, Biasa Artspace‘s Seminyak outlet looks for all the world like a fashion boutique, with airy minimalist pieces downstairs and an impressive double staircase sweeping up to the gallery above. There’s a small shop with hard-to-find books on local art, not to mention bags, while the petite gallery hosts some of Indonesia’s most collected emerging artists. Expect to see works by the likes of ceramicist Arya Pandjalu—currently showing photographic performance pieces from Berlin created with Dutch artist Sara Nuytemans—and sought-after Yogyakarta street artist Farhan Siki.
Local, International Flavor
Nyaman Gallery, an elegant, minimalist space, represents an impressive range of local and international artists, working in diverse media. There’s Jakarta-born street artist Quint, Bali’s answer to Banksy, who puts his work onto canvas for the gallery. There’s Czech photographer Stephan Kotas, who creates new images of Indonesia then prints them onto vast banana paper canvases to transport them back into the past. And there’s Jean-Michel Aucler, known for his blocky collage-like pieces created by artful paper crumpling.
Don’t forget to check out Reservo, known for distinctive pieces by a range of artists, including painstakingly hand-curled paper artworks from Zilkanto, who’s shown at several Jakarta Biennales; richly textured abstract breaking waves by Doglas, and the lotus leaf artworks from Thailand. In a district where prices for original art by named artists starts at just a very few hundred dollars, it really is hard to go wrong.