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Muzium and Galeri Tuanku Fauziah

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Set among the pleasant, rolling hills of the USM University campus, the Muzium and Galeri Tuanku Fauziah’s collection is housed in an elegant neo-classical building, with polished parquet floors, high ceilings and large galleries, surrounded by a lovely sculpture garden.

It has been here since 1982, inspired by a vision to bring science, technology, art and culture together under one roof, cleverly illustrated by its logo depicting a Malay woodcarving motif that entwines the double helix DNA structure.

The elegant neo-classical interior of the gallery and museum. Not too serious for a game of giant snakes and ladders though!

Serious, but not too serious for a game of giant snakes and ladders!

The first floor is devoted to the science bit, with exhibits ranging from meteorites, oil tankers, rubber plantations, computer chips, archaeological digs and dinosaurs vying for attention. Although interesting enough and worth a gander, the real treasure trove of the museum lies within its art and culture section on the ground floor.

A thoroughly modern fine art gallery.

A thoroughly modern fine art gallery.

The fine art gallery, although not extensive, is as fresh and modern as you’d hope to find anywhere, with the added frisson of the inspirations of Asian artists showing through the paintings, sculpture and mixed media. There is nothing shy in the themes either, as the work inspired by the legacy of ‘comfort women’ during the Japanese invasion clearly shows.

Colourful wall panels that hint of Asia.

Colourful wall panels that hint of Asia.

Early pioneers of modern art in Malaysia are given due credit but you will also find works by contemporary artists, names such as Wong Hoy Cheong, Bayu Utomo Radjikin and Roopesh Sitharan attesting to the representation of all sections of Malaysia’s cultural mix. Temporary exhibitions from various countries complete the picture. Some of the more recent ones have included an exhibition of Maori arts from New Zealand and an international ceramics festival.

The performing arts section is particularly strong, a beautiful room of light and shade, with a shadow puppet stage, parties of gaudy puppets from across Southeast Asia, clusters of masks from Bali, drums and cymbals, the walls a-flicker with nimble puppet shadows.

Shadow puppets run riot in the performing arts section.

Shadow puppets run riot in the performing arts section.

Just down the hall the Islamic art room has an arresting collection of calligraphy, armour and daggers. In another room, nyonya beaded slippers sit daintily near rugged aboriginal sculpture.

The beautiful Islamic art gallery.

The beautiful Islamic art gallery.

If you have brought the little nippers along there is an ideal little craft and discovery area as well as giant floor snakes and ladders to keep them busy while you get your fix.

Aboriginal art wins staring competitions every time.

Aboriginal art wins staring competitions every time.

You will be hard pushed to find a better contemporary art section, in a more elegant and serene setting on the island, if anywhere. To get here take bus number 301, 303 or 401 from Komtar or the Jetty bus terminals to USM University. From there, signposts and helpful students will point you in the right direction.

If this seems like too much of a hike, other good places to try for modern art are Armenian Street’s Seni Mutiara gallery and Fuan Wong’s gallery of stained and fused glass; the first floor of Beach Street’s Whiteaways Arcade or Bangkok Lane’s a2 gallery are also good bets.

But if you have a bit more time and a real zest for contemporary art then the Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah is definitely worth the effort.

Muzium and Galeri Tuanku Fauziah
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang
Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00 (closed 1st Saturday of month)
T: (04) 653 3888 ext. 3261 and 3294

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Location map for Muzium and Galeri Tuanku Fauziah

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