Exhibit Review: Bali at Asian Art Musuem

Ravana, from exhibit
While Jared and I were at the Asian Art Museum last weekend we managed to slip into the Bali exhibit, "Bali:  Art, Ritual, and Performance."   What exactly does Bali have to do with South Asia?  Not much, geographically speaking.  But as the Head Curator at the Asian Art Museum joked, "Bali is the other Hindu place in the world" outside of India.  There were Arjunas, Garudas, Rams, and Ravanas to be spotted at the exhibit (including the one at left).  I found the exhibit to be interesting, but I can't categorize it as one of the best shows the Asian Art Museum has put together.

There were several beautiful things to look at, but overall the collection seemed a little scattered (here is a wall of "royal things", here is a wall of puppets, here is a wall of cloth).  I appreciated that the curators were trying to include audiovisual in the exhibit, allowing the observer to develop a sense that the collection was not comprised simply of objects behind glass, but were actually used for particular functions in vibrant social settings.  Hearing the same background audiovisual music on repeat while working your way through the rest of the exhibit is distracting.  (Except for the video on cremation ceremonies.  That was fascinating and well worth the background audio playing throughout the room.)  There was a nod to the impact of Dutch colonialism on Bali and the significance of creating an image of Bali as a paradise (often quite at odds with the reality on the island), but overall I left feeling uncompelled.  Exactly what was the exhibit trying to show me?  Exactly what did I learn?  Unless you're a Bali enthusiast, I might suggest skipping the extra fee to get into this exhibit and instead immerse yourself in the rest of the regular collection, topped off with a cup of tea in the cafe. I'm sure I'll feel quite differently about the coming fall show about Maharajas, however, which starts in October.  Mark your calendars now!