What started out as a planning session to visit galleries in Kuala Lumpur, turned out to be an overwhelmingly wonderful sensation of patriotism for me. The many galleries I had researched on in the capital city were impressive – they all carried quality works by local artists from several generations.
Each chimed about their goal to put Malaysian artists on the world art map, to bring out local talent, to encourage and motivate the art scene. I would have thumped my chest and yell “MALAYSIA BOLEH!!” (Malaysia can!), if I was writing this in my own confines!
Malaysia’s art scene is still developing (much like the country itself I suppose). A decade ago, most subject matter would have been of landscapes, sampans, and people, presented in conventional painting methods. Things appear to be evolving when the old guards (or veterans, more respectfully) make a “come back”, start to share ideas with the young, and contribute to the art scene.
With the opening of Tapak in September 2012, Yusof Ghani realized his dream to share his passion with the public through his art space/gallery/learning centre, which also showcases his 30 year old collection of local Malaysian pieces (including Awang Damit, Zainal Abidin Musa, Zulkifli Yusoff, Ng Bee and Lee Wang Fatt, Latiff Mohidin, Chang Fee Ming, Khalil Ibrahim and Ahmad Zakii Anwar).
Yusof Ghani standing before works by various artists that are part of his collection – The Star, Sept 9, 2012
New artists are no stranger to contemporary approaches either. The main theme for this emerging breed revolves around major Malaysian issues – political, racial, and religious matters and our current way of life. We do live in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religion, developing country. There are struggles (which many would say is an understatement) we have to deal with as a 55 year old country. The new generation retells and interprets Malaysia and Malaysian lives through their depiction of how they see and feel living through it all. To name a few – Cheng Yen Pheng explores the world of abandonment, Raduan Man on human character and behavior, and Ruzeki Harris on drug abuse in the capital city.
I am particularly impressed that auction house Henry Butcher in 2009 stepped up to the challenge of starting art auctioneering in Malaysia. Results have been amazing to say the least. The first auction HB1 raked in RM1,737,910 (51 out of 62 works sold), HB2 RM3,173,710 (98 out of 104 works sold), and HB3 RM4,007,300 (85 out of 86 works sold), HB4 RM3,746,540 (87 out of 92 pieces sold). See http://www.hbart.com.my/ for the list of Auctioned works and results. Aside from the changing hands of pieces, we see an increasing appreciation for Malaysian art and artists. We see – a demand. We see – collectors who are not just followers. We see hope to grow our arts culture to represent the vibrancy of our people and country! At this point, I could hear the national anthem playing in my head.
Let’s hope that the efforts continue and the world gets to learn more about Malaysian artists. I am looking forward to my visits to the galleries – look out for our updates of gallery reviews soon!
If you would like to learn more about Art in Malaysia, visit http://www.arts.com.my