The Theo Meier’s Collection of Balinese Paintings
A legacy of artist life in Bali.
Theo Meier was a Swiss artist who lived in Bali for over twenty years (1934-1955). He immersed himself in Balinese life and in a bohemian fashion formed casual and long-lasting relationships with local artists – with some he became a friend and patron. Meier was captivated by the development of Balinese Modernist art and assembled a significant collection of paintings before, during and after the Second World War.
Although his collection was not scrupulously documented and maintained it included hundreds of drawings and paintings representing the evolving current of Balinese Modernism. Complementing a large collection assembled in the 1930s by anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, Meier’s collection reflected a different dimension of the Modernist movement – where artwork was selected for its stylistic quality rather than examples of cultural significance.
Meier’s collection remained private for decades in Thailand where he moved in the 1950s. Many paintings and some artists represented in this collection were nearly forgotten until the 1990s when his widow sold a portion of the collection. Some paintings were acquired by Leo Haks, a collector and connoisseur of Balinese art. Eventually a part of this collection, via a generous donation by Leo Haks, made its way to the Australian Museum in 2012.
The collection represents only a small sample of Balinese Modernists, including artists such as Ida Bogus Nyoman Rai – a long-time associate of Meier, Ida Bagus Ketut Togog, Ida Bagus Bawa, Wayan Puduch and Dewa Made Kakul.
Much of the original Meier collection, assembled with the help of his friend Ernst Schlager, is housed in the Basel Ethnographic Museum in Switzerland and the Pacifica Museum in Nusa Dua in Bali.
Dr Stan Florek , Collection Officer