Category Archives: Vol 36


The inaugural Pinnacle International Excellence (PIE) Awards 2014 marked a bold step forward in making Malaysia another venue on the world map presenting international awards.

It was an evening to remember. Making an impressive debut, the PIE Awards 2014 ceremony which took place on 9 August 2014 had it all. A five-star venue, a dinner fit for a king (or a crown prince on this occasion), stirring performances, a congenial host and not least of all, the gold statuette. As for the guests, when it comes to honouring the best, one can only expect the best – industry magnates, corporate movers and shakers, echelons of society and a few celebrities for measure.

With camera crews on standby, guests from as far as Europe began to trickle through the Eastern & Oriental Hotel’s marbled lobby. Dressed to reflect the evening’s black tie theme “The Good Ol’ Days”, there was no shortage of well-fitted tuxedos, elegant gowns and retro inspired headdresses.

Established to confer honour and recognition to organisations, be it local, national or international, the inaugural ceremony rewarded 18 organisations from various industries with the prestigious acclaim as being leaders within their respective categories.

Nominated via a stringent selection process, the winners represented the best of those who have reached the pinnacle of their achievements within three main categories – Emerging Class, National Order and International League.

The evening kicked off with the arrival of His Royal Highness DYTM Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail who as Guest of Honour presented the awards in the National and International Categories.

Guests were serenaded by singing duo Chakora Group, as they took their seats in the tastefully decorated Heritage Ballroom. It was then time for host and man behind the awards to say his piece. Beginning his speech, Ch’ng Huck Theng, President of CHTNetwork, took the opportunity to observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims of the recent airline disasters before expounding on the inspiration behind the awards ceremony. “We believe that the world is too small to be divided, and we should be addressing the fact that all human beings should come together, work together, for the sake of the survival of the planet and better the living conditions of generations to come. This is the reason why CHTNetwork has gone beyond presenting local and national awards to being the first in Malaysia to invite international organisations to participate and celebrate this occasion of success and friendship.”

As the wine flowed and dinner service commenced, 24 Season Drum from Chung Ling (Private) High School took to the stage with a heart-thumping and energetic performance by the youngsters. The presentation is part of CHTNetwork’s ongoing efforts to preserve and promote local culture.

Following the presentation of the final set of awards, Ch’ng joined His Royal Highness and Dato Louis Ng Founder & MD of Public Gold, to unveil the Anak Malaysia Limited Edition Silver Coins which were minted to commemorate the country’s 57th year of independence.

The Anak Malaysia Limited Edition Coins are replicas of Ch’ng’s internationally acclaimed bronze sculptures which are a true representation of multi-cultural, multi-racial identity that defines Malaysian society. The minting of the coins also mark a first of its kind collaboration between Public Gold Group (Malaysia) and Royal East Pty Ltd (Australia).

The evening came to a close with an auction of luxury items sponsored by Rado and Fujifilm. Guests threw in their bids for the chance of owning the limited edition items and it was Winson Loh of PINKGUY Gallery and Erlina Tan who walked away with the limited edition Rado True Thinline Si3N4 and a Rado Diastar Chronograph, whilst Dato’ Dr Wenddi Anne Chong was the proud new owner of the latest edition of the FUJIFILM X-T1.


Everyone loves dior

Christian Dior, the luxury fashion retailer celebrated the reopening of its flagship boutique in Malaysia.

More than 400 guests made up of Kuala Lumpur’s socialites, celebrities as well as fashionistas attended the gala reopening of Dior at Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. Amidst a sumptuous spread of canapés and chilled beverages, guests most of them decked out in the label, had the privilege of being among the first in Malaysia to admire the newly arrived fall and winter collection.


Piaget presents Limelight Diamonds, a collection of captivating fine jewellery watches that pairs the charm of solitaires with the art of fine watchmaking. Designed for the independent woman who lives for the present, the Limelight Diamonds is a stylish way to mark her own milestones. The refined radiance of the precious stones are enhanced with a subtle and feminine strap in black satin with white gold ardillon buckle set with a single diamond. With the intense fire and lasting beauty of a solitaire diamond scintillating around her wrist, Limelight Diamonds are destined to become lifelong treasures.



Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid celebrated its diamond anniversary with a stunning display of fashion shows, replete with a host of new features. Over a period of six days the iconic event showcased Spain’s fashion thoughts and creative talents. 41 designers and brands  participated including designers Alvarno, Ulises Mérida and Leyre Valiente from SAMSUNG EGO, Maya Hansen, Rabaneda and Desigual

Images courtesy of


Princess 82 Motor Yacht

The notion of exploring the world aboard a luxury yacht seems almost like it were lifted of a page in the autobiography of a tycoon. A beauty at 25-metres in length and a large cockpit fitted with teak table for some alfresco dining out in the open waters, the Princess 82 Motor Yacht is in a class of its own and is all yours for the taking.

Sporting a sleek and elegant look that accentuates its spacious interior, the 82 Motor Yacht is contemporary, powerful and dynamic.  Her deep-V hull is uniquely design and resin-infused, giving this yacht the performance edge that matches her stunning overall design. The 82 Motor Yacht is a highly capable and efficient performer, giving her captain assurance and the thrill of driving her.

Built and designed by the world-famous Princess Yachts, the 82 Motor Yacht embodies the superior design and performance philosophy of the British yacht manufacturer.  Princess Yachts, based in Plymouth, UK, is reputably the best of British yacht manufacturers and is acclaimed for its quality craftsmanship, design and engineering pedigree. Beyond its performance track, the yachts bearing the Princess name are at once elegant and luxurious, both in their interior styling and the exterior designs. These hallmarks of the Princess brand are very much embodied by the 82 Motor Yacht.

In Malaysia, Princess Yachts is represented by Pen Marine Sdn Bhd, a luxury yacht dealer based in Penang.  In a statement released to EZ, Pen Marine’s Sales Director said, ‘The Princess 82 is a stunning new model in the Princess line-up which was debuted at the London Boat Show in January 2013. As the Malaysian representative of Princess Yachts, we had the opportunity to view the beauty personally at the Southampton Boat Show last year and she did not disappoint us.’

‘Not only does the 82 Motor Yacht have beautiful exterior lines, its elegantly designed interior is customisable with luxurious furnishings and finish based on owner’s preference,’ she stated, ‘she would be great for sea lovers who want to spend several days out without sacrificing comfort.’

The 82 Motor Yacht’s spacious flybridge allows for a spacious seating area which is fitted with sun pads and a wet bar, making it perfect for entertaining guests or even hosting parties on board. Designed to suit various occasions and needs, the yacht also has private enclaves that offer its occupants a retreat for some time alone. According to Oh, the yacht has added privacy features, including ‘the forward Portuguese bridge seating shields the guests on board when the yacht is berthed in a marina.’

Reaching a top speed of approximately 33 knots, the 82 Motor Yacht comes with three different diesel engine options; the Twin Caterpillar C32 A (2 x 1622mhp), Twin Caterpillar C32 A (2 x 1723mhp) or Twin MTU 10V 2000 M94. Even in rough seas, the combination of a powerful engine and impeccable engineering allows for a comfortable of and soft ride.

‘For those who are looking for a yacht which can afford plenty of volume and usable space for entertainment, the Princess 82 Motor Yacht is waiting for you to take her out on her first cruise, cruising along the West coast of Malaysia and the Andaman Sea,’ said Oh, summing the reasons why you should make a date with the gorgeous yacht.

Foundations for the future

Professor Hannah McGee
Dean of Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences,
Royal College of Surgeons Ireland

Professor Patrick Murray
Dean of Medicine, University College Dublin

ELEANOR LOPEZ speaks to representatives from two of Ireland’s most prestigious and long standing institutions to find out what makes them the forerunners in medical studies. 

Ireland’s worldwide reputation for excellence in education particularly in the fields of Medicine and Health Science has been built on a solid foundation of commitment to quality and continuous development. This is apparent with the longevity of colleges such as the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), established in 1784 and the University College Dublin (UCD), established in 1854. On a recent visit to partner institute, Penang Medical College in Malaysia, Prof Hannah McGee of RCSI and Prof Patrick Murray of UCD shared their views on what makes Ireland a top destination for students pursuing a medical qualification and the contributions of these colleges to the health industry and global community.

Originally established as a surgical training college, RCSI remains as the training and regulatory body for surgical training in Ireland. In addition to surgery however, they offer postgraduate faculties in radiology, exercise and sports medicine, dentistry, nursing and midwifery to name but a few. RCSI is also an extremely research active institution with research clusters focusing on cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, infection and regenerative medicine and population health.


“The longevity of RCSI might well be the basis on which the quality standards and strong reputation of RCSI are built,” claims Prof McGee, highlighting the college’s international student body. “We believe that we are the largest international medical school in the world offering undergraduate medical training in four RCSI campuses across three continents with over 60 nationalities represented within the student body. The international student body creates an Alumni Diaspora which covers the globe. RCSI is truly a global medical educator.”

“RCSI has a significant international student body. On the admissions side we operate a policy of admitting students from different parts of the world with approximately one third coming from the European Union (mainly Irish), one third from the developing world and one third from the developed world,” explains Prof McGee. “This creates a unique learning environment and graduates return to their home countries with a cultural education and tolerance that they gain far beyond the structures of the medical curriculum.”

According to Prof Murray, the integration of different cultures and background is something that is central to the ethos of Irish education. Dating back to hundreds of years ago when Irish missionaries travelled to various, often remote parts of the world, this exposure to eastern and western lifestyles has provided a global outlook that has long been ingrained in the Irish education system. This has proved especially valuable within the evolving fields of medicine and science, where knowledge and exposure to tropical illnesses and diseases have been helpful in keeping abreast of developments and discoveries.

It is not surprising then to find that this has been one of the founding visions of UCD. “The University’s founder John Henry Newman, outlined his vision in a volume of published lectures titled The Idea of a University. His vision was based on creating an educational institution dedicated to facilitating ‘true enlightenment of the mind’ and developing ‘a university mission to benefit the wider world’. To this day, UCD stays true to this ethos,” says Prof Murray.

With over 160 years of tradition, UCD has been a major contributor to the making of modern Ireland; leading and shaping agendas since its foundation in 1854. It is well documented that many UCD students and staff participated in the struggle for Irish independence and the university has produced numerous Irish Presidents and Taoisigh (Prime Ministers) in addition to generations of world renowned opinion leaders who have made real and lasting contributions to the worlds of commerce, medicine, science, law, arts and sport. Among UCD’s well-known graduates are authors Maeve Binchy, Roddy Doyle, Flann O’Brien; actors Gabriel Byrne and Brendan Gleeson and sports stars such as Irish rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll and former Manchester United and Ireland captain Kevin Moran. Perhaps the best known of all its graduates is writer James Joyce, who completed his Bachelor of Arts at the university in 1902.

Such a long history of success is not the only reason these institutions have managed to stay relevant,  “RCSI is a living entity which is constantly evolving. The position of standing still is never an option,” states Prof McGee, speaking for the institution’s 200-year old reputation. “It is important to note that RCSI are not a state funded organization, in fact we are a not-for-profit organization. This independence requires RCSI to be innovative and flexible. This is achieved through a continual process of quality improvement which is driven by both an internal Quality Enhancement Office and by regular external review and audit. We also get together regularly in Dublin to align our activities in teaching, examining and managing clinical training standards to ensure continuing high standards.”

Ensuring consistency and high standards is a priority to both institutions, and the secret to achieving this is to be student-centric as Prof Murray points out. “UCD is a world renowned educational institution which consistently produces graduates of the highest calibre. Our students are given every opportunity to evolve into extremely competent, highly employable graduates who are prepared to thrive in their respective chosen fields. We are an internationally recognised provider of healthcare education, with long-established partnerships, links and affiliations with institutions in the United States, Canada, China and Malaysia. Our graduates, including a former President of Ireland and the current President of the Medical Council, have reached leadership positions in Ireland and throughout the world.”

Keeping tabs with the healthcare industry is also key to continuous growth and success. ”Our staff are dedicated to improving primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in Ireland while continuously sharing knowledge and expertise with the international medical community thus helping to drive betterment within a global context,” says Prof Murray.

And complacency is never tolerated according to Prof McGee. “I don’t think we should ever become complacent about standards. The day we start to do that is the day we begin to go backwards. For me the real check is where our graduates end up. Our education is only as good as to where it takes our graduates. Many of our graduates are global leaders in healthcare – Professor Lord Ara Darzi, Professor and Chairman of Surgery at Imperial College London; Dr Houriya Kazim, Medical Director and specialist breast surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, US;  Professor Kieran Murphy, Professor of Radiology University of Toronto & University Hospital Network and Dr Michelle McEvoy, Consultant Pediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, London – to name but a few.”

The RCSI has been receiving Malaysian students since the 1970s and it wasn’t long before the demand for medical seats in the institution far outstripped their capacity. It was time to look for an alternative solution. “As luck would have it, an opportunity arose in the mid 1990’s with the Penang Development Corporation who were looking to create a medical campus in Penang. It was a perfect match. Our curriculum is delivered by senior Irish clinicians teamed with local clinical leaders in Penang hospitals, following an immersion in life away from home in a Western culture,” says Prof McGee referring to the 5-year program which is divided between the two cities.

As founding partner of PMC, the UCD has hosted over 50 students every year for the last 15 years. “Since its foundation, UCD faculty has been very closely involved in the continuing development of the highly successful PMC Medicine program. More recently our teams have been working together to develop post-graduate courses in fields such as Diagnostic Imaging and Dermatology,” says Prof Murray. “The UCD School of Medicine and Medical Sciences is proud of our multi-national, multicultural student body and our students from Malaysia are an integral part of that long tradition. They enrich our programme as enthusiastic participants in academic, cultural and social events bringing Malaysian sophistication and glamour to our campus.”

Looking ahead, both institutions are confident that they will continue to remain in the forefront of global knowledge and research studies especially in Asia and North America. “As the highest level research is, by its nature, global in scope, UCD will continue to foster collaboration with the ‘best of the best’ researchers across the world. The University will continue to focus on five research priorities – Culture, Economy and Society; Health; Information, Computation & Communications; Agri-Food and Energy & Environment,” assures Prof Murray.

As for the RCSI, Prof McGee is confident its not-for-profit status will continue to propel the institute ahead. “This status, which makes us independent of the State, gives us both the need and the ambition to be innovators in healthcare education and training – and challenges us to create our own future through our efforts. It is a healthy challenge for any organisation and leadership – and keeps us ever forward looking.”

Fortune Favours the Bold

Dato’ Alvin Lim Theng Hooi
Executive Chairman, Arita Plastics Industries (M) Sdn Bhd

Bold, brave and visionary best describes Dato’ Alvin Lim whose contributions to the manufacturing industry in Malaysia hasearned him pioneer status. ELEANOR LOPEZ speaks to this flamboyant yet unassuming personality about his career, company and contributions to society.

“It was fated,” explains Dato’ Alvin Lim when asked about his career in the plastic manufacturing and trading industry. “I was supposed to go overseas to further my studies but my father changed his mind. He wanted me to continue with his business.” It will never be known if it was paternal instinct or a premonition of some kind that prompted this sudden change of heart, but two years after Lim joined the company his father passed away. As the only and eldest son, the responsibility of providing for his mother and three younger sisters landed firmly on his 20-year old shoulders.

“My father was involved in many different industrial businesses including plastic trading. He had asked me to choose which I thought was most suitable for myself. So that’s how I got started in the business. This was in 1978 and all my friends had left Penang for the UK, Australia and Europe. Although I was upset I couldn’t join them, I promised myself to achieve my goal of owning my own home, my own car and my own career before they returned in four years, “ he remembers.

It was a goal he achieved through hard work and the support of friends. “I was very lucky as many of my father’s friends and business associates, even in Singapore, came forward to help me. This helped me expand my network further and from that I ventured into trading.”

Twelve years later, Lim would be setting up his own trading company with a group of friends but it was also important for him to build up his own brand. In 1993 he joined forces with ACME a public listed company in Singapore to set up Arita Plastics Industries (M) Sdn Bhd.  Starting out on his own, the business was pretty much a one-man show until his wife Datin Peggy who was working for a multinational company at that time, decided to help him out. “That was how we met actually,” she smiles at the recollection. “He was doing everything on his own – the accounts, delivery, clerical, everything! He was very hardworking so I thought “why not” and joined him as his very first General Clerk.”

Growing the business from the ground up was a challenge that would soon take root and flourish. Taking heed of then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ‘look east’ policy, Lim approached the most prominent pioneer in Japan’s manufacturing industry, Asahi Kosei to be his original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner.

“This was my vision – to always keep up with the ‘big brothers’ in the market such as Japan and Taiwan. At that time, Malaysia was still behind by 10 years. In my business I was selling products by brands from Taiwan, Japan and Korea. My father had once told me that if I wanted to be a pioneer in this industry, I would have to create my own products.”

But Lim did not rely solely on emulating the eastern business modal. Demonstrating a competitive edge, he also approached a top US based chemical company. “I explained to them that the Asia Pacific region was a growing market, offered to be the OEM partner for them.” Through his exposure to both manufacturing worlds he was able to identify the different approaches, combining the two technologies to create his own.

“Now I am one of the pioneers in the Extruded Plastic Sheet technology in Malaysia,” he states with deserving pride. It is a claim validated by the many awards and recognitions his company Arita Plastics Industries (M) Sdn Bhd, has received over the years – the most recent one being the Pinnacle International Excellence (PIE) Award 2014 for Manufacturing. The national level trophy is awarded to Malaysian organisations that have established their brand within the country and are respected as leading names in their industries.

It is an admirable feat considering Lim did not have the opportunity to gain academic knowledge in the field. “I’m not a technical guy,” he admits. “I’m a marketer. I love to talk and communicate with other people. That’s why I have many friends.”

And it is this pool of friends that he calls on to support his charitable efforts, one of them being the Joyful Penang Concert which raises funds for charity and non-governmental organisations. The 3-hour concert with a twist is the brainchild of Lim, who was inspired by a friend’s suggestion that he organise one for charity. “Instead of celebrity performers, we approach all the ministers, Datuks and Datins, the rich and famous to perform in this concert; singing, part of the band and acting to raise funds for charities. In 2011, our first year we raised more than RM550,000!” he claims proudly. “It’s not easy to get everyone together especially the ministers and CEOs, but they are all equally committed and we start weekly rehearsals at least 3 months ahead.”

The concert was such a success that it made headlines in the local news. Whilst talking about his philanthropic projects, he becomes more animated and eager, pulling out photos of previous events from his mobile phone. It is clear that these activities are very close to his heart. He is also responsible for organising the biggest food fair in Penang, the Harmony Charity Food Fair, which is endorsed by the state government. “I’ve been the Organising Chairman for more than seven years and every year we raise more than RM200,000 which is divided between 20 beneficiaries including old folks homes, orphanages and the Red Crescent Penang.”

There is no doubt that these extra activities make Lim even more of a busy man but he doesn’t see it as an additional burden. ”This is something we have to do. It is not work, it is helping people and contributing to their welfare.” EZ_36 Alvin Lim2

Of Diamonds & Pearls

EZ36_Cover_PearlLee Sze Suen
Managing Director of SUEN Jewellers

EZ catches up with the reclusive entrepreneur who has been creating subtle waves within the fashion industry with her diamond jewellery boutique in Bangsar.

There are times in one’s life when the path set is often not the path taken. Likewise for Lee Sze Suen who practiced law for a year before fate introduced her to the diamond business. “I actually think that education is all about the development of the mind, development of analytical skills,” she muses during a quick chat at her boutique. “I think studying law has helped me with the business – being able to spot real issues and attack it and find the best solutions.”

Starting out as partner in the upmarket The Carat Club in 1997, Lee decided to venture on her own after the business unravelled three years later. SUEN Jewellers was founded in 2010 and officially opened its doors to the eager public in early 2011. Located in the prestigious neighbourhood of Bangsar, the SUEN brand, which is an evolution from The Carat Club, now caters to the astute taste and lifestyle of the contemporary consumer.

“When I launched SUEN, it was actually built on the corner stone of style and quality. I’m always trying to find new, interesting styles and quality. Basically that’s the benchmark that we set,” says Lee who makes personalised service a priority in dealing with customers. “We are a lot more customer-centric and aim to be recognised for creating exceptional and remarkable pieces of jewellery.”

Although Lee doesn’t design the pieces herself, she is constantly inspired by new ideas and keeps tabs with the creative views and works of some of the most creative minds in fashion, furniture and forms. “I can’t cut off sketch reasonably well, but I give a lot of input in terms of influences and design direction.”

Taking a stroll through the bright and spacious showroom, it’s clear that her taste for modern elegance is not confined to craftsmanship. The space which occupies three bungalow lots houses different galleries within which the sparkling gems take centre stage in polished glass cabinets.

The Love Diamond boutique is a particular favourite for couples looking to acquire a bespoke piece for their special day. Here wedding bands are customised to the customer’s preferences without compromising the brilliance of the diamonds.

“In diamond cutting, it is always yield versus profits. To get a better cut obviously you discard a bit more but then the brilliance is different, the brilliance speaks for itself,” explains Lee who admits that her choice of diamond cut makes the stones slightly more expensive. “It is very interesting because when we first started, some people who understood diamonds didn’t think we could survive. Because obviously, when we offer better quality we are slightly more expensive than others. But I think we have carved a niche for ourselves and people can see the differences in quality for themselves.”

Four years later, the SUEN brand is slowly but surely making a name for itself within the local and international scene. “We find a lot of jewellers knocking at our door – French jewellers, Italian jewellers – but we are fairly picky about whom we select,” says Lee who currently carries the Lalique, Daum and Hodel brands in her boutique. Lee’s vision for fine craftsmanship has also led to the commissioning of New York based Malaysian artist Eng Tay to create a signature design for the brand, which was later turned into a limited edition jewellery piece.

With its emphasis on simple, classic jewellery SUEN offers a wide range that encompasses diamond solitaire rings, eternity rings, varying styles of diamond earrings, tennis bracelets and Riviera necklaces. The gallery also houses the full works of more elaborate ready-made jewellery in diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires, coloured gemstones and jade.

The pearl collections by Hodel are a particular draw as SUEN is one of the very few dealers who carry the exclusive brand. The signature line features Baroque necklaces, gold-dyed pearls and pearl rings in diamond encrusted settings.

Needless to say the boutique keeps Lee very busy and any reason to travel whether it’s for work or leisure is a welcome respite from the demands of the store. “I enjoy long distance travelling. I find that in that quite space, I’m able to actually reflect on work a lot.” And as a mother of three, the juggling of work and home life does not come without its claims. “I think my challenge is always trying to find that balance between work and children. But I always put my children first. For example, I can be serving customers and I may not take calls from other people but whenever it’s my children I will pick up the phone.”

The self-confessed workaholic admits that she hardly has time for other pursuits and this could account for the low profile and minimal publicity. “I generally avoid frivolous talk and I just think don’t think it is necessary to have too much publicity. I like my privacy,” she muses before continuing with a laugh. “Actually I spend a lot of time working, in the evening sometimes I’ll be online with suppliers from New York and friends. Otherwise I play some tennis, go to the gym or start planning my next holiday destination.”



CURATOR of creativity

Richard Koh
Founder of Richard Koh Fine Art

As the gallery’s 10th year anniversary approaches, founder Richard Koh speaks to EZ about nurturing talent, promoting contemporary art and the developing art industry in Asia.  

Operating private gallery spaces in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Richard Koh Fine Art has not only been a platform for the viewing of pioneer works, it also serves to provide emerging artists access to a wider audience.

“It is a gallery that nurtures young contemporary artists. We promote them wherever we can,” explains Koh who with over 20 years of experience, is a valued resource for many of the region’s important private and public collections. “These are young, up and coming artists who have never had any exposure or opportunity to show their work but who are very good.”

Recently four Malaysian artists, who under the auspices of Richard Koh Fine Art were selected for the recent “Arts KL – Melbourne 2014” exhibition in Australia. The creations of Fendy Zakri, Haffendi Anuar, Hasanul Isyraf and Yeoh Choo Kuan are inspired by current events and communicate their ideas through abstract expressionism and reinvented images. It is progressive talents such as these that Koh is eager to discover and promote to the world.

Starting with Malaysian artists, it wasn’t long before his patronage extended to Southeast Asian artists and beyond. Koh often travels to discover new talent, keeping his eyes peeled for someone with the ‘it’ factor and has journeyed as far as the Middle East and South America. “At one stage there were more foreign artists than Malaysians”. This wasn’t so much the lack of home grown talent as the lack of new material produced by local artists. “Malaysian art is still the same in a sense, they are still painting the same thing but there is a new interest for a lot of  people,” Koh observes giving credence to developing interest in art collection which has created a demand for new ideas and techniques.

EZ36_Cover_Richard2It is certainly a very different scene from what it was about 10 years ago when art was seen as a privilege for the more astute section of society. Now with increasing accessibility through mainstream galleries and art shows, the world of art is opening up to the general public especially here in Asia. “Malaysia art is starting to have attraction. People are interested to buy real works of art, you know, for their homes and to collect or to simply enjoy it.”

The evolution within the art industry in Asia is certainly escalating especially with the emergence of auction houses, and there is some apprehension that this could turn into a double-edged sword. “The art scene is very interesting in that sense that they are developing. At the moment, in the Malaysian art scene there are more investors than collectors, so maybe in a way it is not as healthy as it should be for the artist to actually have a chance to develop,” says Koh who does not subscribe to the rules of economy where art is concerned. “When it is market driven then basically the art is done for the consumer. (But) art is a recording of history in many ways, so it must come from heart and not from the market proven perspective.”

The market is certainly buzzing here in Asia, although in Koh’s opinion this is not an indication for everyone to go out and buy art. “I think anytime is a time to buy art. A market is a market, you know. The only difference is with Asia, people are beginning to collect art. So the awareness of art is there now. In the west it’s been around longer, so it is a slightly more mature market compared to us.” When asked if this could potentially kill the market, Koh disagrees. “You need the auction houses, to generate interest you know. Malaysia never really had a secondary market till the auction houses came about but it has changed slightly because it is no longer about the secondary market.”

Although art is not regarded as an asset, Koh admits that there is a tendency to treat it like stock in the share market which is bought and sold for the sake of making a quick buck. “In many ways the auction houses have given the public awareness of art, but on the other hand it has also created, in strange way a very speculative market for people to play in.”

His advice to the public eager to bank in on this trend is to be exposed to the art scene as much as possible and do their research to be better informed about their potential purchases. “I think one needs to understand and know what they are buying art for – whether for pleasure, to decorate a house, investment. And before you buy, visit as many shows and galleries or museum as possible to help you understand what you really, really like.”

Koh is also keen to point out that the price of art is not necessarily an indication of its quality or worth. “Sometimes the cheapest piece art is something that you like the most and gives you the most pleasure. It may not go up with the price, it doesn’t matter but you enjoy it. And that’s special thing about art.”


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