Investing in Balinese traditional art? Now is the right time, writes Richard Horstman.
Within the sphere of Indonesian art, Balinese traditional art is a small niche market. It has recently, however, witnessed positive developments, and this progression, both in its appreciation and valuation, is leading to increasing national and international popularity.
The rapid evolution of information technology has led to greater access to knowledge about Balinese art, along with the publishing of more quality art books. Recent developments within the Bali art infrastructure, and the fact that experts believe the market is undervalued, with strong future growth potential, point to now being an excellent time to buy Balinese traditional art as an investment.
The dynamics leading to Balinese art being underappreciated and undervalued has been due to its perception. Within world art Balinese art has been maligned, often referred to as ‘tourist’ and folk art – a craft without a legitimate place in Indonesian art history. Some of its finest practitioners, however, were, and are today, from the Balinese high castes therefore, it is not an art form exclusive to the common people. The leading artists nowadays are in a life long, ‘sacred’ pursuit dedicated to reaching new levels of technical skill and aesthetic mastery.
Initially collected and exhibited in anthropological museums of the Netherlands, and not in the renowned art museums of Europe, it was presented with a demeaning colonial narrative, referred to as art made by primitive people. This is situation, however, has recently undergone change. The institutions with the most important collections of Balinese art have been rebranded – renamed Museums of World Culture. From now on it will be presented free from the old narratives, given special curatorial attention to its importance, while being exhibited with the highest technological standards. This will impact positively upon its perception and appreciation internationally, and within Indonesia.
During the past twelve years Jakarta auctioneers Larasati have been tireless promoters of Balinese traditional art. 2018 marks the tweleth year of its Bali auctions, held twice yearly in Ubud. Larasati’s website provides sale data from past auctions, information, and access to online live bidding. Market data reveals strong growth for Ubud painter A.A Gde Anom Sukawati, if you purchased a work in 2003 for about USD 2,000 – 3,000, it can be sold at auction in 2016 at about USD 23,000. Similarly if you invested USD 2,000 – 3,0000 in 2003 on a masterpiece by Ida Bagus Putu Sena, it sold at auction in 2012 for about USD 14,000.
The major change maker on the Balinese art landscape is the TiTian Bali Art Foundation, located in Ubud. Open in 2016, and specializing in identifying, and nurturing emerging talent and introducing the best artists to the market. During 2017 TiTian presented some of the finest artists from the renowned school of Batuan painting. Wayan Budiarta, Wayan Aris Sarmanta (winner of the 2018 TiTian Prize), Pande I Made Dwi Artha and Gede Widyantara are young talents on the rise. Six paintings by two of these talents were purchased by Museums of World Culture and soon will be exhibited in the Netherlands.
Each year a new sector of world art comes under the auctioneers spotlight at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In 2017 it was African art – the market response was increased demand, and new record prices. It is inevitable that more international collectors will turn their attention here due to the quality art at cheap prices. Could Balinese traditional art be one of the next booming markets?
Buying the right art requires some know how. Here are some tips for new collectors:
-Do your research and learn as much as possible through books and online information.
-Visit museums, galleries, auctions, artist’s studios, and exhibitions. Immerse yourself in art in order to train your eye.
-Get to know collectors and the experts. Seek out advice while learning about the industry.
-The best investment is with the emerging artists. Their works are cheaper and have a great potential for increasing in value and leading to future gains.
-Identify potential future masters by self-research and scouting, or align yourself with artist incubators.
-Invest early on masterpieces by the potential future masters.
-Think long term and hold for at least 5 –10 years to wait for the market to mature for profit making.
-Works at auction often sell for prices much lower than that at galleries, or the artist’s studio.
-When buying at an auction set the price that you are not prepared to go above.
-There are still many Balinese works, often treasures, that remain forgotten, or unrecognized, which are stored away, and are yet to find their way onto the market.
-Young talent is thriving in the villages of Batuan, Keliki and Ubud and these important genres are in exciting new eras of development, driven by well-organized art collectives.
-Look out for the Larasati auction previews published online in The Jakarta Post.