Given that window shopping is the most popular cultural activity in Kuala Lumpur, it may come as a surprise to visitors that the city has a thriving contemporary art scene. To be honest, it’s probably somewhat of a shock for many residents too. The main problem with seeing contemporary art in Kuala Lumpur is that much of it is so badly publicised. And even when the information is out there, the majority of the city’s best art spaces are in hard-to-find locations.
That includes the excellent National Art Gallery, stuck out in Titiwangsa, miles away from the nearest train station. Despite being a pain to get to, the NAG is well worth a visit. The building may look like it’s falling to pieces from the outside, but the quality of the artwork on the inside is anything but shoddy.
Several interesting exhibitions are running until mid-June, including Tabik, a tribute to late Malaysian artists. The gallery is open 09:00-17:00 every day, and admission is free. Getting a taxi is probably the easiest option, although RapidKL bus B103 does run from Bukit Bintang to Titiwangsa, via KLCC.
Set in an even more obscure location is MAP @ Publika, a great new space to showcase contemporary art. It particularly merits a visit until June 18, when it is hosting a full viewing of the 104 works in Art Auction Malaysia 2011. The quality and variety of the art coming under the hammer is truly impressive.
The exhibition features works by some of Malaysia’s most accomplished artists, including Latiff Mohidin, Ibrahim Hussein, Cheong Soo Pieng, and Abdullah Ariff. It’s open every day, 11:00-19:00, and admission is free. A taxi is the only feasible way to get to Publika.
On a much smaller scale, although still interesting in their own right, are two free photographic exhibitions, both sponsored by foreign cultural organisations. The Metaphorical Garden, showing at KL Gallery (at KL Library), is an exploration of what the garden means in the modern city by 14 local photographers. The show, which is sponsored by the Goethe Institut, runs until June 26 (14:00-18:45, Mon; 10:00-18:45, Tues-Fri; 10:00-17:00 Sat and Sun).
Meanwhile, the Alliance Francaise is showcasing Blue Boy Mansion, an exhibition of photos by Raphael Fournier until June 21 (09:00-17:00, Mon and Sat; 09:00-18:30, Tues-Fri.). The French photographer’s work focuses on residents of the Blue Boy Mansion in Bukit Bintang, the city’s first residential building more than four storeys high.
KL also has an incredible array of private art galleries. Among the best are the Annexe Gallery and the Art House Gallery, in the Central Market Annexe; the Wei-Ling Gallery, in a beautifully converted shophouse in Brickfields; and Purplehouz Fine Arts on Jaling Gasing in Petaling Jaya, a street which has become somewhat of a hub of artistic activity. Clearly these places exist to sell art, but they all welcome casual browsing.
National Art Gallery
2 Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 4025 4990
MAP @ Publika
Level G2-1, Block A5, Dutamas, 1 Jalan Dutamas 1, off Jalan Duta
T: (03) 6207 9732
KL Gallery (KL Library)
1 Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur
T: 03 2612 3500
AFKL Gallery (Alliance Francaise)
15 Lorong Gurney, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 2694 7880
The Annexe Gallery
1st and 2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe, 10 Jalan Hang Kasturi, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 2070 1137
Art House Gallery
Lot 2.01-2.02, 1st Floor, Central Market Annexe, 10 Jalan Hang Kasturi, Kuala Lumpur
8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 2260 1106
Purplehouz Fine Arts
94 Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
T: (03) 7960 8005
By Pat Fama.
Last updated on 8th February, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.