Ubud is a mere hour's motorbike ride from Canggu, north of Seminyak, where I live. Its cool foresty village vibe makes for a nice break away from the endless coastal summer sun and its zippy surfdudes. It's also a nice cultural break. So how to separate the wheat from the chaff? There are various museums, galleries and commercial artist workshops. Here is what I would recommend spending time on.
The Puri Lukisan museum on the main street is a pretty, landscaped compound, a little dog eared, but worth visiting for my favourite Walter Spies painting (see my post here) and an understanding of his time and contemporaries in Bali.
The most beautiful part of Ubud is where the road crosses the valley of the Campuhan river and that is where Don Antonio Blanco houses his extensive collection of erotic paintings in his circus like mansion. Give your senses a break though and visit the very instagrammable Clear Cafe across the road instead, for magnificent views over the Gunung Lebah temple. Your eyes will thank you.
Next, carry on further up the road away from town to the Neka Museum, a large manicured compound where you can get your fill of Balinese art in all its varieties. You will gain an understanding of its development as expatriates such as Walter Spies and Arie Smit arrived and influenced the local perspective, infusing what was originally a dark spiritual painting style with Impressionist influences. You can also see how local geniuses such as I Gusti Nyoman Lempad perfected a drawing style unique to Indonesian art.
To complement a visit to the Neka, I would highly recommend browsing in Purpa Gallery on Monkey Forest Road, the oldest in town, which showcases an extensive collection of canvases by established and emerging local artists. Purpa Fine Art Gallery opened its doors in 1970 under the direction of I Nyoman Purpa, and his daughter Ari Purpa now heads the business with a new gallery opened in Seminyak last year.
And now off you go to try your hand at batik painting, ceramics, wood carving or oil painting yourself at one of the many artist's workshops offering classes...
(Featured photo: Arie Smit at the Neka Museum)