Art Mart

Today we found this in TIME magazine about our little village: Thriving center of the arts or chaotic flea market? The Balinese town of Ubud is a little bit of both - BY LARA WOZNIAK

The inland town of Ubud is known as the cultural hub of Bali. But before you picture a tranquil artists' community, where the reverent silence of masters at work is broken only by tropical birdsong and the lilt of a distant gamelan, let us put you straight. Ubud is a hot and raucous place—and you're more likely to run into T-shirt hawkers than artists. Visitors are also often struck by the uneven quality and random subject matter of the work on display. Many of the town's famous sculpture studios seem to prioritize commercial expedience over artistic tradition, and put a chaotic jumble of tat on sale—you'll come across everything from Christmas decorations to carvings of decidedly non-native lions and giraffes. The paintings also betray a mélange of foreign influences, with pseudo-Impressionism and faux-Expressionism finding particular favor among local daubers targeting the tourist dollar.

That said, the prices of objets d'art are low and bargaining is expected. You can start your negotiations by cutting the stated price by at least 50%, and pick up a miniature, framed original painting for less than $10. Ubud can also turn up some stunning finds if you have the patience to browse through mountainous displays in the artisan shops located along Jalan Raya Ubud and Monkey Forest Road (store aisles will be almost impassable with paintings and carvings—take a deep breath and watch your step). One more word of advice: guides and drivers will often try to steer you to a shop or gallery run by a friend or family member, few of which will rival these three favorite galleries of our own suggestions.

THE LEMPAD HOUSE This gallery on Ubud's main drag, Jalan Raya Ubud, occupies the former home of Bali's most famous artist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, who died in 1978 at the age of 116. There isn't much of his work on display—it's mainly by other artists, including Lempad's grand-children and great-grand-children. But even if you don't see anything you like, the traditional Balinese architecture of the house and compound makes the visit well worth the trip. The gallery has no phone, but your hotel concierge will know how to find it.

NEKA Suteja Neka is Ubud's foremost art dealer and patron, and his Neka Art Gallery, tel: (62 361) 975 034, houses much good Balinese art, including beautiful examples of traditional shadow puppets. These are one of Indonesia's best-known folk art forms, and are said to be based on figures from the Hindu Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. You'll also find plenty of work by expatriate artists who have called Bali home over the years, including Rudolf Bonnet and Arie Smit.

SENIWATI GALLERY OF ART BY WOMEN This gem of a gallery, tel: (62 361) 975-485, displays a broad selection of painting, pottery and weaving from more than 40 women artists worldwide. But its main focus is on female painters from Bali itself and on their characteristically dark orange-, brown- and golden-hued work.

From the Sep. 26, 2005 issue of TIME Global Advisor