IN THE VILLAGE of Ubud in the district of Gianyar, Bali, is the Neka Art Museum , formerly called the Neka Museum. The founder and owner is Pande Wayan Suteja Neka, better known as Suteja Neka, an art connoisseur. His father, I Wayan Neka (1917 – 1980), received recognition as the best carver in the province of Bali in 1960. He created a three-metre tall statue of the garuda bird for the Indonesia Pavilion at the New York World Fair in the United States of America in 1964, and another one for the same purpose at Expo 70 held in Osaka, Japan.

Suteja Neka began collecting paintings of high quality due to his close friendship with Dutch artists Rudolf Bonnet (1895 – 1978) and Arie Smith (born 1916). In 1975 Neka and Bonnet traveled to Europe to view museums and galleries. Neka’s aim to establish a fine arts museum in Bali was reinforced by this journey. After years of planning, the Neka Art Museum officially was opened by then Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture, Dr Daoed Joesoef, on the 7th of July in 1982.

In 1992 the province of Bali presented Suteja Neka with the Dharma Kusuma art award and gold medal on behalf of his devotion and efforts to raise the quality of and preserve Balinese art culture. In 1993 Neka was awarded the Piagam Hadiah Seni art award, the highest distinction in the arts from the Republic of Indonesia. It was presented by the Minister of Education and Culture in recognition of Neka’s devotion to the development of traditional and contemporary art in Indonesia. In addition, the award was presented in appreciation of his dedication in founding a high quality private museum. In 1997, the President of Indonesia awarded Neka with the Adikarya Pariwisata tourism trophy. The Pacific – Asia Travel Association ( PATA ) Indonesia Chapter presented him with the Heritage Award in the same year.

It is hoped that the government’s recognition of the Neka Art Museum and Suteja Neka’s service to the arts will motivate other galleries to contribute their energy and devotion for everyone’s benefit.

Dr Anak Agung Made Djelantik Specialist on Balinese Art and Culture Denpasar, Bali