This extravagant hilltop retreat with gardens was once the home of “the Dali of Bali”, the man many consider to be the island’s most eccentric artist.
You know you are in the imaginative world of an eccentric artist when you see parrots, chickens, a monkey and dachshunds before you have seen any paintings. This is the scene that you might find as you enter the site of the Don Antonio Blanco Museum, an attraction not to be missed when you are in Ubud.
Born in the Philippines in 1911 to Spanish parents, Antonio Blanco travelled the globe and studied at the National Academy of Art in New York. The artist arrived in Bali in 1952 and married the locally famous dancer Ni Ronji. He was given land overlooking the Campuan River by the King of Ubud and made a impressive sanctuary out of this hilltop retreat. The mix of Balinese and Spanish architecture is astonishing. Unfortunately, Blanco didn’t live to see the opening of his museum; he died in 1999.
Enter the gate, greet the animals and walk through the gardens to reach the museum. The complex includes his family’s home, a restaurant, his studio, a temple and a Hindu pagoda. See women in traditional Balinese dress carrying offerings of palm leafs and flowers. You can watch these offerings being prepared in the courtyard.
Gold statues balance on the rooftops of the museum. The grand rooms inside are equally extravagant. Admire the marble floors and turquoise pylons with gold leafing before stepping closer to the paintings.
You will see how Blanco was influenced by European art forms, including Renaissance nudes and the “recreated reality” of Salvador Dali’s work. Blanco portrayed women in a whole new light and perhaps for that reason he is often called “the Dali of Bali”. Blanco’s work includes erotic art; some visitors may find these types of expressionist paintings shocking.
Don’t leave before peeking inside Blanco’s studio, which still has his last painting on the easel, waiting to be finished.
The museum in Camphuan, just outside central Ubud, is open daily and there is an admission fee. Taking photographs of the artworks is prohibited, but you can buy books and prints in the on-site gift shop.