Indonesia has a rich and complex culture and history, and there is no better way to understand this dynamic country than through its world-class museums. From ancient relics to contemporary art, traditional batik dress to avant-garde transportation, discover the best museums in Indonesia.
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN)
As Indonesia’s first international modern art museum, MACAN brings together works from native and international artists. It’s probably the only place in Indonesia to have Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, and the nation’s fabled artist Raden Saleh under one roof. Public and family tours are organised weekly, as well as artist talks and discussion for avid art enthusiasts or even the curious general public who would like to engage. This museum also dedicates a special space for children to learn and create art.
If you speak Indonesian, you’ll know what the name implies: Museum Angkut is a modern transportation museum. That may not sound like much for people who can’t tell vintage Ford and Buick apart, but there is something for everyone in this museum. Vehicles from across the globe, from traditional carriers to aircraft are displayed in an elaborate landscape setting crafted contextually. We’re talking Broadway Street and old-time Jakarta recreated beautifully to accommodate the vehicles featured. Visitors can also engage in a sophisticated flight simulator, one of the most popular on-site attractions.
This private museum highlights the Javanese culture, which is arguably the most prominent culture that shapes a big part of the country. Ullen Sentalu houses authentic artefacts from empires in prehistoric Java, courtesy of the owner’s close relations with the Yogyakarta sultanate. From gamelan instruments, exquisite batik, to handwritten letters and photographs, visitors are invited to delve into the lives of the Javanese royals, with all its glam and drama. You’ll be fascinated by the culture’s thoughtful and meticulous attention to details and how they symbolise the unique Javanese worldview. All that in a majestic architecture with both modern and traditional touches, surrounded with calming lush gardens.
As one of Indonesia’s authentic, most popular crafts, batik is now cherished worldwide as a form of traditional art often incorporated into modern artworks. The Museum Batik Danar Hadi in Solo captures the journey of the traditional textile from before the colonial era decades ago, until after. Tourists can find and learn about many different kinds of batik the country has, including the precious royal Batik Kraton and Batik Sudagaran. One thing not to miss while visiting the museum is observing the batik-making process in its on-site workshop.
This art museum is at the heart of an integrated complex dedicated for art and culture in Ubud, Bali. The establishment comprises everything from art museum, resort, restaurant, to shops; allowing art and culture to step up from a mere experience into an integrated lifestyle. The Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) houses works from the most influential painters in 1930s Ubud, to local contemporary artists, and everything in between. This museum also has a vision towards the future of Balinese art and culture, hosting workshops and events to help visitors learn and appreciate more.
The building may date back to the colonial era, but the museum’s displays and facilities are high-tech. Forget the notion of an old dusty museum; expect to see animation, modern devices, and VR technology. Bank Indonesia is Indonesia’s central bank, but the museum offers so much more than the history of the country’s economy. Visitors can also see historic artifacts from many different ancient kingdoms in the archipelago before it became the unified country it is now.
As a country with a rich geological and natural landscape, Indonesia is bound to have equally opulent geological museums. Museum Geologi in Bandung is one of the biggest and most prominent, showcasing impressive collections dating back to the prehistoric era. Fossils, rocks, and minerals from throughout the archipelago collected from different centuries are brought together for visitors to observe and learn conveniently. It’s like going back in time and learning about the planet, natural resources, and landscape in a new (old) light.
Due to the tourism hype revolving around beaches and parties, it’s easy to overlook Bali’s heartfelt artistic scene. Neka Art Museum is dedicated to documenting and presenting the history and development of art in Bali. Located in Ubud, the art and culture capital of Bali, this museum showcases noteworthy artworks spanning from the 19th century to the present. The collection of 300+ works are organised into different pavilions and exhibition halls, thoughtfully curated to convey an elaborate picture of Bali’s art scene in different eras.
Andrea Hirata’s debut novel The Rainbow Troops remains one of the most monumental literary works from Indonesia. Since its release in 2005, the novel has opened a new world of influence, literacy, and even tourism in Indonesia. The beautifully depicted set of Belitung Island is now a famed tropical paradise, also hosting the country’s first literary museum owned by the author. You’ll enjoy excerpts and pictures related with the characters in Hirata’s works housed in a humble but charmingly colourful homey building. The museum also has educational programs for visitors and local children.
The museum’s huge collections tell stories about the nation’s history in every aspect. Dating back to Indonesia’s prehistoric era, various artefacts in forms of primitive tools and exquisite crafts will give new insights beyond history books. It has a whopping 142,000 pieces in its collections sourced from across the country, depicting different dimensions of life from art to agriculture, language to religion. The National Museum also hosts additional exhibitions, shows, and events all year long.