Beyond Eat, Pray, Love
    Category: Forbes Life By : Kellen Svetov Read : 1776 Date : Saturday, September 13, 2014 - 09:57:37

    Johannes P. Christo for Forbes Indonesia

    From its art galleries to the majestic Balinese temples, Ubud is Bali’s cultural and artistic hub. For many Westerners, Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” provided a glimpse into Ubud’s rich mix of Balinese culture and natural beauty. Eight years after publication, “Eat, Pray, Love” evangelists are still an unmistakable presence in Ubud. However, far before Gilbert, expatriate artists such Antonio Blanco and Arie Smit settled down in Ubud to pursue their craft.

    Led by Blanco and Smit, Ubud’s artistic community reinvented and redefined Balinese art, transitioning from traditional Balinese art to modern Balinese art, a variant that integrates Western elements with traditional techniques. Throughout this period, the Royal Family of Ubud served as champions of Balinese art: Prince Sukawati provided Antonio Blanco with financial sponsorship and the plot of land that currently serves as the Blanco Renaissance Museum. When visitors ranging from Joseph Tito to Suharto came to Bali, the Royal Family showcased the works of local artists at the Pita Maha and Museum Puri Lukisan, bringing Balinese culture to a global audience.

    To this day, the Royal Family maintains an active role in the preservation and promotion of Balinese art: Prince Sukawati serves as chairman of Museum Puri Lukisan. As Bali’s tourism industry developed, the Royal Family adopted both a personal and financial interest in its continued growth by opening the Royal Pita Maha, a resort and spa situated along the steep ravines next to the Ayung river. Forbes Indonesia sat down with Prince Tjokorda Gde Putra Sukawati of the Royal Family of Ubud to discuss tourism, art and entrepreneurship in Ubud and beyond.

    As chairman of the Museum Puri Lukisan, you’ve taken a very active role in preserving Balinese art, particularly modern Balinese art. How have you seen Balinese art develop?

    The Museum Puri Lukisan originates from a foundation that my parents, the Royal Palace of Ubud, and artisans in Ubud established in 1938. We called it Pita Maha. Since Pita Maha’s founding, Balinese art has seen a lot of innovation, much of it driven by Western influences. It has shifted from being a purely classical art form to a more open, more modern form that can be appreciated by a wide range of people, particularly foreigners. At the same time, it never lost its distinctive Balinese spirit. Since that point, the art of Bali has become marketed, purchased for souvenirs and private collections. Interest in Pita Maha, coming from both prominent Indonesian guests and tourists, excited and motivated the people of Bali, inspiring them to create more and more.

    What role does the Puri Lukisan play in Ubud today?

    Puri Lukisan means a lot to us. Having tourists come view and appreciate the culture showcased, not just art but dance and music means a lot to us. Sometimes what we have, we don’t feel it—but it’s very special. After a stranger, a foreigner, comes to Ubud to see what we have, we realize it’s truly something special. Seeing that, we try to raise the quality of our culture. Those activities motivate the people of Ubud.