Cyril Kongo Sets Up Bali Studio

The celebrated graffiti artist has taken up residence at one of Nusa Dua’s most stylish resorts.

Cyril Kongo in his new atelier at The Apurva Kempinski Bali. (Photo: The Apurva Kempinski Bali)

On the top floor of The Apurva Kempinski Bali, a discreet entrance leads to an austere room unlike any other in the resort. Vibrant paints line its shelves, while the bold hues of graffiti canvases are illuminated by daylight flooding in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which frame sweeping views toward the Indian Ocean. For French artist Cyril Kongo, this raw space is now the center of his working life.

Dubbed L’Atelier, the 144-square-metre studio — with a dedicated drying room to counteract Bali’s humidity — contrasts with the Majapahit-inspired grandeur of the rest of the Apurva. Yet it’s still a far cry from the mean streets of Paris, where Kongo honed his art from age 16, once telling a judge who was trying him for vandalism, “Tomorrow, people will pay for this.”

But luxury collaborations are nothing new for Kongo, who took his nom d’artiste from the Republic of the Congo, where he lived in his early teens. He has worked with Chanel legend Karl Lagerfeld, macaron master Pierre Hermé and designer brand Hermès, and sports a Richard Mille timepiece of his own design. Kongo recently moved to Bali to be near his mother, who had retired to the island. For him, L’Atelier is an opportunity to enhance his creativity and perhaps collaborate with local craftspeople. “Maybe we’ll create some carvings, some sculptures, work with indigo or batik,” he says. “Maybe I’ll do a little work on some desserts: I can work really well with chefs.”

It’s too early for Kongo to see how Bali will influence his vibrant, complex, multicultural pieces. He adds that having a sea-view studio is a privilege. “I really feel blessed. But as an artist you need to get hit by many, many things: it could be the streets or catacombs of Paris, the ocean, the heart of the city …”

In the months ahead, L’Atelier may well host exclusive experiences for resort guests, providing a rare glimpse of how Kongo will play off Bali’s rich artistic traditions — and its flair for contemporary crafts — once he settles into his new island home.

This article originally appeared in the June/August 2021 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“A Brush with Bali”).

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