Jul 21 2011
Up until very recently, the idea of tourists coming to Kuala Lumpur specifically to see or buy Malaysian contemporary art would have been virtually unheard of. But a thriving independent gallery sector, together with the success of Malaysia’s first two contemporary art auctions, and the growing popularity of the country’s annual International Art Expo, has raised the possibility of art tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism has been quick to recognise the potential of a new way to entice visitors, organising its first Malaysian Contemporary Art Tourism Festival in 2010. This year’s festival, which runs until the end of September, brings together 17 events and more than 100 galleries. Eight states are taking part in the jamboree, but the focus remains on KL.
One of the most interesting events is an exhibition of work by people with learning disabilities at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (though it’s not mentioned on their website). Called the United Voices Art Exhibition, it showcases 80 pieces of work by eight young artists. The most uplifting part of the exhibition is that the artwork is easily good enough to be judged on its own merits, rather than because it’s by someone with learning difficulties. Admission is free to the show, which is open daily from 11:00 to 17:00, until August 21. For more about the artists, follow this link.
A major innovation of this year’s festival is the involvement of eight large shopping centres. One of those taking part is the seriously upmarket Starhill Gallery. It’s aiming to showcase work by some of Malaysia’s best young artists, with its Visual Arts Awards competition. Local artists, aged between 21 and 35, have until the end of July to submit their work. The submissions will then be narrowed down to a shortlist of 40, which will go on display at Starhill in September. Two of the winners will be decided by a professional jury, while a third will be chosen by public vote.
Not surprisingly, the National Art Gallery is getting in on the act, putting on several exhibitions to coincide with the festival. The best of the bunch is Wayang U-Wei Angkat Saksi, a bit of a mouthful for sure, but also an interesting collaboration between the film director, U-Wei Bin Haji Saari, and eight contemporary artists. Admission is free to the exhibition, which runs until September 5.
Malaysia Tourism Centre
109 Jalan Ampang, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 9235 4848
United Voice (Self-Advocacy Society of Persons with Learning Disabilities)
603 Jalan 17/12, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
T: (03) 7954 0701
181 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 2782 3855
National Art Gallery
2 Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 4025 4990
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