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Balinese paintings – beyond skin deep

How does one go about loving? Apparently, in the case of Balinese art, with deep thinking and knowledge. According to financial analyst and Balinese art collector Lin Che Wei, the path to making Balinese art a stable and lucrative creative industry is still a long and challenging one. The art form has yet to enter the investment grade category.

The average Balinese artist starts painting at the age of 25, is able to produce 260 paintings during his or her lifetime and has a life expectancy of 73. However, most artists only manage one exhibition by the time they are 45, thus excluding 130 works from exhibitions, he said.

Most of these artists are only appreciated after they leave this world, and fail to reap the benefits of their works so they can have a materially comfortable life.

Making Balinese art a high level investment requires several steps involving the artwork’s originality, history and marketability. But, the current difference between asking and bidding prices is just too large.

The art market requires the roles of museums as promoters, and auctioneers as those with purchase data, to increase the liquidity. It is also in need of promotional activities for artists, such as exhibitions and investors to support auction houses, Lin said.

“Investing in Balinese art now is still cheap, and it could possibly fly in the future when per capita income increases further, and more and more new rich invest in art. At that moment Balinese art will become a sought-after investment,” Lin said last week in Jakarta.

Yet, money and business concerns are not the only factors at play in the matter of appreciating the art form.

According to Balinese painting collector and aficionado Soemantri Widagdo, Balinese paintings are usually beyond skin deep because they have stories to tell and history imbued within them.

Approaching the 20th century, Mexican researcher Miguel Covarrubias studied traditional Balinese paintings. He came to the conclusion that all Balinese are art workers.

However, Dutch artist Rudolf Bonnet conducted deeper study building on Covarrubias’ conclusion and found that they may all be art workers, but not all are artists.

Indeed, paintings abound in the Island of the Gods, but there are select ones that exceed others in terms of their artistic value and history.

Several samples of this category are currently available for the public to savor at the Bali Maha Sani exhibition running from Feb. 25 to March 6 at the Multi Function Room of Plaza Indonesia in Central Jakarta. The exhibition was organized by the Bali Bangkit Committee.

“Sani” is defined in the Indonesian Language’s Official Dictionary (KBBI) as precious, noble and beautiful. Thus, the exhibition can be translated as “The Exquisite Bali”.