Balinese Expressions # 1: Reunion with the Forge Collection
On 12 September 2012 Jane Hubert and Olivia Forge visited the anthropology group to view the collection of Balinese paintings assembled by Anthony Forge in the 1970s. Jane was married to Anthony Forge and accompanied him with their two children, Olivia and Tom, during a year spent in Kamasan village in 1972-73 while Anthony conducted his seminal research on the role of art in maintaining hierarchy in Balinese society.
This fieldwork, and a number of subsequent visits, resulted in one of the most significant collections of classical Balinese paintings, now commonly known as the Forge Collection. The Australian Museum acquired this outstanding and well documented collection of 160 paintings in three instalments. In 1976 it acquired over 100 paintings from Forge’s original research, in 1979 40 additional paintings were collected for the Museum by Professor Forge, and in 2006 another 15 paintings were generously donated by Olivia and Tom Forge from their father’s private collection.
Both Jane and Olivia are closely related to these paintings. They not only witnessed the collecting process and the interviewing of artists, but participated in the coming and going of Anthony’s work on a daily basis. Jane took numerous photographs of events and ceremonies and her notes and correspondence, while still private, add an extra layer of contextual knowledge that accumulated slowly, and sometimes by chance, in the process of documenting the social life of Balinese people at the time.
Connecting people with collections has deeper symbolic, as well as practical purposes, because collections are ultimately about people, and their meanings derive not from the objects alone but predominantly from human interactions. The Australian Museum was extremely pleased to welcome Jane, who is herself an anthropologist, and Olivia, a biologist, as a part of these interactions on a very personal level. We believe they enjoyed viewing Forge’s collection, evoking happy, insightful and funny memories of their Kamasan life in the 1970s.