Art Treasures of Ubud
Bali & Beyond Magazine, October 2002
Dr. Vivienne Kruger
Murni used the profits of her Warung Shop, her famously successful Warung, and Murni’s Houses – to return to and indulge her first love: wonderful works of traditional art created by the diverse peoples of the Indonesian archipelago.
In 1988, she leased (and subsequently purchased) an empty plot of land near the Warung on Jalan Raya Campuan to build her antique shop, Kunang-Kunang I. Capitalizing on its popularity, she bought more land two years later and constructed a second shop, Kunang-Kunang II, next to Pura Dalem temple on Jalan Raya Ubud.
In keeping with Murni’s love of art and beauty, Kunang-Kunang II’s exterior is a handsome, peak-roofed, wooden edifice with two lava stone statues draped in black and white poleng cloth on the landing step – all framed in glorious Balinese greenery. Murni, a consummate, avid collector, personally does all the buying for these three stylish, upscale boutiques, which offer fine works of Indonesian, Southeast Asian, and Far East Asian craftsmanship in a sedate atmosphere tailored to western tastes and behavior.
Murni travels overseas each year, partly for business and partly for pleasure – she does not make a distinction between the two. In 2001 she established good relationships with traders of Central Asian goods, resulting in a fine new collection of beads, textiles, clothes and costumes from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Ubud armed Murni with formidable fine arts credentials and an exquisite, seasoned, sophisticated sense of taste. Murni’s knowledge of and ability to select and scout out collector-quality antiques have made her both personally famous and professionally trusted around the globe as a leading art buyer. Each piece of original artwork in her outlets has been personally smiled on and chosen by Murni to please and excite her customers.
Murni caters to everyone from budget tourists to museum curators from abroad to an impressive roster of international celebrities: Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones is still a repeat client of “Ibu Murni’s” shops today.
Enter any of her three portals and admire a wide-ranging treasure chest of highly sought-after masks, wood carvings, stone sculptures, tribal art, ceramics, pottery, puppets, woven basketry, paintings, ikat cloth, textiles, furniture, silver and gold jewelry, precious stones, and beads, that have transformed these impressive emporia into legitimate art galleries in their own right.
Indonesian art pieces find their way into Murni’s shops from Bali, Java, Flores, Kalimantan, Lombok, Sumba, Sulawesi, Sumatra, East and West Timor and the Moluccas. The intrinsic beauty of these regional specialties is rooted in each area’s historical and religious traditions, wealth of creative genius and in the archipelago’s stupendous natural endowment of malleable raw materials.
Wrought in richly dyed colors and unique organic textures, skilled (often remote) native workers have produced some of the world’s most coveted handicrafts: Murni has them all. A prime example is the visually intricate and spiritually stunning five-foot-high bronze statue of Ganesha the elephant god in the Lounge Bar of Murni’s Warung. Commissioned by Murni in 1997, it took experienced Balinese craftsmen five years to complete!
Step inside Kunang-Kunang I and Kunang-Kunang II (kunang-kunang means fireflies in Bahasa Indonesia) and feast on Balinese paintings, which depict scenes of traditional village life, rural markets, rice planting and harvesting, local fishermen, temple festivals and naked Balinese beauties bathing in the river. Gasp at a sunken Spanish galleon’s cargo of rich, artistically designed (often aristocratic) gold rings, bracelets, earrings and pendants from Central Flores, Central Sulawesi and East and West Sumba, and fine gold necklaces prized by Nias island village chiefs.
Jump over to East Java for multi-colored, striped, “Majapahit” glass rainbow beads dating back to the ninth century and copper batik stamps used for hand printing designs and patterns on batik textiles. The jumble of enticing objets d’art includes horse and Buddha candleholders, totemic figurine lamps, bronze pigs (an absolute favorite), boxes made in the Moluccas of cloves, rattan utility boxes from Lombok with carved lizard and frog lid decorations, and hand-woven, cotton beaded bags from West Timor, traditionally used to contain betel chew ingredients.
You no longer need to travel to Bali to make purchases or order from Kunang-Kunang I and Kunang-Kunang II. Murni offers a beautifully presented, photo-illustrated online shop www.murnis.com where you can enjoy an exciting, antique-browsing adventure and a precious, vicarious voyage back to Ubud – the cultural heartland of the island of the gods!
Art Treasures of Ubud