Asian Art Museum Presents Exhibition of Balinese Art

Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance, on view at the Asian Art Museum through September 11, 2011, brings the art and artists of Bali to San Francisco, introducing museum visitors to Balinese history and religious beliefs, and illuminating the ways that performance and rituals are integrated into daily life.

From woven palm-leaf images of the rice goddess to terrifying wood sculptures of Hindu deities, from gilded chairs for kings to painted palanquins for the gods, from offerings made for family shrines to masks carved for foreign tourists, this close examination of Balinese art includes some 130 diverse artworks. Many of these are among the finest examples of their kind, including sculpture, paintings, ritual objects, architectural structures, masks and costumes, photographs, furniture, and more.

Tanah Bali, approx. 1930–1937. By Miguel Covarrubias (Mexican, 1904–1957). Gouache on paper. H: 14 in; W: 21 in. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C

But the Bali exhibition doesn’t stop there: Amplified by a brimming schedule of public programming—live performances, artist demonstrations, and hands-on art making—the exhibition sheds light on the role art within the fabric of Balinese life. The show also features a multimedia tour, providing context for many of the individual objects. And it is accompanied by a 376-page, fully illustrated catalogue—the first of its kind to be published in more than thirty years—containing essays by renowned experts representing current scholarship. Curated by Natasha Reichle, the Asian Art Museum’s associate curator of Southeast Asian art, Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance is organized by the Asian Art Museum, which is the only place it can be seen, either nationally or abroad.
“Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance introduces visitors to a culture that has long been at the crossroads of many civilizations,” states Dr. Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum. “It teaches visitors about Balinese history, religious beliefs and traditions, and artistic practice. Most importantly, it highlights ways in which the Balinese people integrate artworks, ritual, and performance in their daily activities. It poses questions about cultural authenticity, adaptation, and persistence. And it encourages a new evaluation of perishable materials used in ritual artistic practice.”

The majority of the artworks in Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance are drawn from six museums in the U.S. and the Netherlands: the Asian Art Museum; the American Museum of Natural History in New York; the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles; the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam; the Rijkmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden; and the Museum Nusantara in Delft. Other objects come from private collections in the Netherlands (a former long term colonial presence in Indonesia) and U.S.

Lower image: Burial bulls (patulangan lembu), approx. 1930–1937. By Miguel Covarrubias (Mexican, 1904–1957). Watercolor on paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 98509149. © Maria Elena Rico Covarrubias.

About the Asian Art Museum
The Asian Art Museum is a public institution whose mission is to lead a diverse global audience in discovering the unique material, aesthetic, and intellectual achievements of Asian art and culture. Holding more than 17,000 Asian art treasures spanning 6,000 years of history, the museum is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art.

Information: (415) 581-3500 or visit

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