The Passion of Agung Rai

As I passed through the leafy welcome arch of the Agung  Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), I wished I had come earlier.

It was about four in the afternoon and seeing how shady the gardens were, I knew it was a place that invited one to linger.


Get lost in the pages of a nook perhaps. Or just luxuriate in the shady ambience of the moment.

The grounds contain a temple as well as an upscale resort.

Three men were working on some woodcarvings in one of the small pavilions and I had a nice chat with them. Good way to practice my Bahasa.

There are two galleries that contain the personal collection of Agung Rai. An art collector with humble origins starting out selling paintings to tourists in Sanur, Rai’s collection is a virtual walk through of the history of Balinese paintings. It was a collection of a man who knew what he wanted. From old wayang style paintings to modern ones, it was a peek into Balinese imaginings.

I had seen the works of the different art styles in the Puri Lukisan such as those by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Bali’s greatest visual artist. But I had not seen that of the German, Walter Spies. After going through the short exhibit on Spies the more I was intrigued. His works blew me away. I especially like how he delineated his figures. His paintings had a magical quality in them that evoked a quiet and sensual mood in them.

An installation.


Paul Husner’s paintings were also on exhibit. They were playful and colorful depictions of Balinese everyday life, ceremonies, and rituals.

The museum also housed antique textiles some of which are very valuable such as a gerinsing textile from Tengganan. Gazing at the textile from afar, you can make out the human figures woven into the design.

The ARMA, together with the Blanco Museum,  make museum going so much a sensory experience as it is visual. Where Blanco’s passion was the shapely figures of Balinese women, Rai’s was that of art as a whole. ARMA is a testimony to that passion.

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