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Creating Pathways For Young Artists 年轻艺术家的指南针

Bayu Utomo Radjikin

Director of HOM Art Trans


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“For me, I want to nurture young artists so that 10 years from now, we will have many more good artists to showcase impressive art works”

With a long list of solo and group exhibitions, locally and internationally, in his belt and multiple awards, Bayu Utomo Radjikin is no stranger in the art industry. The Sabahan, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, is particularly well known for his solo exhibition featuring mainly skulls in his paintings two years ago called “Ada Apa Dengan Tengkorak”.

“There is a future yet for the art industry here and I am sure that one day, our artists will be able to bring this industry up to finally catch up with our neighbouring countries.”

After a break of two years, when he worked on his latest masterpieces, Bayu Utomo launched a solo of his abstract works in “Gejolak” this year at G13 Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. “It is more of an abstract form that is fluid and different from my more figurative works like Tengkorak,” he said about his latest work. He also plans to work on more abstract forms in his future pieces.

“I want to do something that’s different from my previous styles and I enjoyed doing this so I am looking forward to creating more abstract pieces like in Gejolak,” he shared. Gejolak is Bayu’s interpretation of the feelings and emotions that swirled endlessly within humans. He said the strokes represented the strength and weakness along with the imbalances of feelings inside humans. Gejolak is his 10th solo exhibition since he launched his very first solo in 1996 at the National Art Gallery.

Other than his own work, the 46-year-old is intent on helping budding artists to succeed in an industry that is wrought with challenges. Bayu is the director of HOM Art Trans, an independent art space dedicated towards cultivating young and new artists. The organisation has three main programmes, The Residency, The Art Fund and The Art Award, to nurture, help and promote young talented Malaysian artists.

“There is a future yet for the art industry here and I am sure that one day, our artists will be able to bring this industry up to finally catch up with our neighbouring countries.”

“It is important to nurture these young artists by providing them with the means and space, otherwise it is difficult for them to flourish,” he said. He said these young artists are really talented, including those who graduated with fine art degrees. However, there were no avenue for them to flourish and succeed so many would easily give up. He recently organised group exhibitions for the young artists in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

“Of course, all these exhibitions mean that we also needed a supportive audience to keep them motivated but unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of people who understands,” he said. The art industry in Malaysia is still growing and it will take time for the audience to really appreciate fine art like paintings and sculptures.

Bayu has been in the art industry for over 25 years and he believed that though the art industry is still growing, it is heading in the right direction. “We are still lagging behind compared to Indonesia and Manila,” he said. Art is still considered unimportant and not a priority for most people. It is not something corporations will support and many still assumed that exhibitions can only be held by those who have the money to do so.

“For me, I wanted to nurture young artists so that 10 years from now, we will have many more good artists to showcase impressive art works,” he said. With great masterpieces, he believed it will lead to progress for the art industry in Malaysia. He is also nurturing one of his children who has shown an interest in drawing.

“There is a future yet for the art industry here and I am sure that one day, our artists will be able to bring this industry up to finally catch up with our neighbouring countries,” he said. Bayu is now working on his next project, more abstract art works, and has plans to hold another solo exhibition in the near future.

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在成功举办了国内外一系列个人和集体展览会,创造无数艺术话题和荣获许多奖项,Bayu Utomo Radjikin 绝对是艺术行业并不陌生的名字。这名拥有美术学士学位的沙巴人,两年前以别具一格的骷髅颅骨主题 :“Ada Apa Dengan Tengkorak”的个人展览而知名。

而历经两年休息后重整旗鼓,Bayu Utomo推出了最新杰作,拥有抽象意识的“波动(Gejolak)”,今年在吉隆坡的G13 Gallery 正式展出。“这是抽象的表述形式,相当流动性,不同于我象征性质的作品,如Tengkorak。”他谈到最新工作,计划在未来的创作中以更抽象形式展现。

“对我来说,培育年轻艺术家,10年后我们将有更多优秀艺术家呈现印象深刻的艺术作品。”

“我想做一些跳脱以往的风格,我喜欢这种感觉,所以期待着创作更多抽象作品如Gejolak。”他分享。Gejolak是他对人类内在无休止的思绪和情感的诠释。他说,笔画线条代表了力量和虚弱,也显示人类潜在不平衡的情感。“Gejolak”是他的第十次个人展览,1996年他在国家艺术画廊推出首次个人展览会。

除了本身的创作工作外,这名46岁的艺术工作者还打算协助新人闯荡这个挑战性的领域。他也是 HOM Art Trans 的总监,这是一个独立的艺术空间,致力于培养年轻和新兴艺术家。该组织具备三大主要构成:住宿、艺术基金和奖项,并以培育,帮助和推动年轻的马来西亚才能艺术家。

“重点是培养这些年轻艺术家,为他们提供举措和空间,否则他们很难蓬勃发展。”他说,这些年轻艺术家才华和悟性都很强,包括美术科系毕业生。然而,由于历经毫无成就的艰难局面,许多人半途放弃。他最近也为槟城和吉隆坡的年轻艺术家们举办了集体展览。

“当然,开设展览会意味着需要观众的支持,以保持他们的积极性,但遗憾的是,没有得到太多了解与回响。”他说,马来西亚的艺术产业仍在增长,让观众可以真正鉴赏美术画作和雕塑需要一点时间。

踏入艺术领域25年,他觉得纵然艺术产业在朝着正确的方向前进增长。“我们仍然落后于印尼和马尼拉。”他说。艺术依旧被认为是附属品,并非多数人的主要选项。企业机构不轻易支持,很多人还是认定举办展览会是有钱人的玩意儿。

“对我来说,培育年轻艺术家,10年后我们将有更多优秀艺术家呈现印象深刻的艺术作品。”而有了出色的创作,他相信这将引领马来西亚艺术产业的步伐,目前他家里有一个对绘画有浓厚兴趣的孩子,他正积极培养。

他说,艺术行业拥有灿烂的未来,有一天我国的艺术家的发展将最终赶上邻国。Bayu进行下一个计划:创作更抽象性质的作品,并在不久举办另外个人展览会。

When East Meets West

In 2011, a new art event took place that would, over the next four years, change the position of Singapore within the Asia Pacific art industry. The very first edition Art Stage Singapore was held at Marina Bay Sands and each year since, the event has attracted worldwide attention. At the 2014 edition of the art fair, the team from EZ had the privilege to sit down for a chat with the man behind Art Stage Singapore, Lorenzo Rudolf. We discussed how the art fair has grown and its relation to the Southeast Asian and global art market in general.

Lorenzo Rudolf is a prominent figure in the art world. Long before he headed east and brought a much needed breath of fresh air and vigor to the Southeast Asian art world, Rudolf was at the helm of the world’s most recognised and lauded art fair for the modern and contemporary – Art Basel. From 1991 to 2000, he led Art Basel as its director.

This Bern, Switzerland native has always been surrounded by art, not surprisingly. ‘It started all in the house of my parents who were art lovers and culture lovers. I grew up in a place at the time which was probably one of the most interesting moments in the history of contemporary art,’ said Rudolf during the interview on the last day of Art Stage Singapore 2014.

‘Exactly at this time the Kunsthalle Bern was directed by a guy who was at his time considered crazy but he was the one who really opened the doors for contemporary art as the conceptual thing with his very famous exhibition, When Attitudes Become Form. I was once standing in front of his museum in Bern and saw this museum was packed; it was the first time I crossed a packed building,’ he said. The ‘crazy’ curator was none other than the controversial Harald Szeemann, said to be the most important curator of the post-World War II period.

‘So I was probably also lucky to grow up at the right time, at the right place. In that context I made my career start as an artist myself and then realizing that there were better artists than me, and coming to the point, maybe I can bring together my professional background with my passion to organize events – that’s the way how we’re doing it, and I became director of Art Basel, and from there, step by step it continued,’ he said.

After his long tenure with Art Basel, Rudolf traveled around the world setting up various other fairs, namely the Frankfurt Book Fair and the International Fine Arts Exposition in Palm Beach. In 2007, he headed to China to launch the ShContemporary art fair in Shanghai. ‘The first country in Asia which really became important in the international arts was China, and that had a lot to do also with Swiss, maybe. The first big gallery in China, it was a Swiss who opened it and is still today the biggest gallery,’ explained Rudolf on the Swiss-China art connection. Incidentally, it was also the great Harald Szeemann who would be instrumental in bringing Chinese art to the international art world.

However, Rudolf’s fascination with Asian art had started long before his move to the East with the first piece of art work from Asia that he had collected during his time at Art Basel. ‘The first few pieces I bought were in the early 90s, which were brought over to Europe through these people,’ he said. It would seem coincidental that the bridging of Southeast Asian art and the global art world would be paved by yet another Swiss.

As he became involved with Asian art during his stint at SH Contemporary, Rudolf’s interest for it deepened. It was his first big show in Asia and China at that time was experiencing a huge boom, quite rightly an exciting time of growth for the art world. Inspired by the buzz around him, Rudolf felt the urge to do something in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia. ‘I fell more and more in love with this region because I think Southeast Asia has incredible creativity, and it’s not only a creativity which is trying to fulfill certain Western criteria of contemporary art, but has its own character and identity,’ he said. And that was how the seed for Art Stage Singapore was planted.

‘That’s also the reason why I decided to come to Singapore and do this show here. The show, which is a platform for the entire Southeast Asia, brings (the countries) together and in exchange, at the same time, opening a window to the West,’ he said about the concept behind Art Stage Singapore. 2014 marked the fourth edition of Rudolf’s grand visionary plan of a world-class art fair based in this oft-overlooked part of the world, and the mark Art Stage Singapore has made on the overall art market of this region is not just highly visible, but also profound.

‘I think today we are at a situation where we have a momentum all over the world for Southeast Asia. There was never a curiosity and interest in Southeast Asian art as today; that has surely to do also with the phenomenon here. I’m glad we can help Southeast Asia to go out, to become a part of this global art world, to integrate Southeast Asia in this global context. That’s why, at the end, I’m happy that we can contribute,’ he said.

‘I think today we are at a situation where we have a momentum all over the world for Southeast Asia. There was never a curiosity and interest in Southeast Asian art as today …’

Southeast Asia is comprised of diverse art scenes; each of the nations in the region has their own distinct art scenes that have their own unique microcosms. To bring them together as how Rudolf has done with the Southeast Asia Platform at the 2014 edition of Art Stage Singapore is quite a novel concept, to say the least. The discourse between the different member countries makes for a rather fascinating study. ‘I think what is important in the Southeast Asian context is when its different countries and art scenes begin to interact with each other – not only the Indonesians among the Indonesians, Malaysians with Malaysians, Thais amongst Thais. I think it is important to have this exchange,’ Rudolf explained.

‘Contemporary art is a global language; it is an expression which has to be understood everywhere. A good art piece done by a Malaysian artist is understood in New York as well as in Jakarta. A good art piece done by an Italian artist is understood in Singapore as well as in Tokyo. That’s what you have to create here. I think for that, this place here is ideal, because Southeast Asia is quite a big region. There are a lot of interesting artists, but not a lot of infrastructure. Here we have the infrastructure. Here we can build up the bridge to the West, to the world, to everybody,’ he said, making a point for the suitability of Singapore as a hub for the region, ‘And that at the end is what we do.’

This year, to coincide with Art Stage Singapore, the Singapore Art Week was held with numerous art-related events strewn all across the island nation. There were also a number of auctions held, capitalizing on the congregation of the movers-and-shakers of the art world in Singapore for the week. When asked his take on the cluttering of so many art events at the same time, Rudolf commented, ‘Every medal has two sides, I think. On the one side, it’s good to have a lot of things around and not only one event because it attracts a lot of people. On the other side, it’s clear the more you have things around that people spend money on, the more it spreads left and right.’

‘Contemporary art is a global language; it is an expression which has to be understood everywhere. A good art piece done by a Malaysian artist is understood in New York as well as in Jakarta.’

However, seeing that collectors are a discerning bunch in general, and some might be collecting art for the sake of investment, the presence of many art auctions and sales also mean that they have a wider selection to choose from. ‘They concentrate their purchases where they really want, where they find the best,’ said Rudolf, adding that this translates to the different players in the art scene trying to do their best to outdo the other. ‘The more you have around, you always have to try to be the best and then you can be sure people come here to sell and buy.’

‘It’s proof that Southeast Asia and Singapore is moving, it’s developing. If that was not the case also, nothing would happen. So in other words, all in all, I think it’s great but it has to be (coordinated) a bit. Only then can we have a round and sound result as something without any concept behind it would help nobody’, he said on the activities surrounding Art Stage Singapore 2014, ‘If really a lot of events are complementing each other to create something new, great! It’s fine.’ Seeing the success of Art Stage Singapore 2014 and the various art-related activities that Rudolf’s brainchild has inspired, it all bodes good news for the development of the Southeast Asian art world.

A Mandate for Art

For many years, Dato’ Mahadzir Lokman spoke to the people of Malaysia from their television sets. As a television presenter and host of numerous Malaysian events, his deep and booming voice became accompanied some of the nation’s most high-profile events including the successful 1998 Commonwealth Games, the launching of Malaysia’s space mission in Russia and Kazakhstan, and the annual Merdeka Parades.

Affectionately known as Dale, this multi-talented impresario spent the last few years acting as an ambassador of sorts, promoting Malaysia on the international platform such as the Malaysia Week celebrations in London and the World’s Fair in Seville. However, 2013/2014 sees Dale take on a different role as the ambassador of Malaysian art through his appointment as the Chairman of the National Visual Arts Development Board (NVADP) and the National Visual Arts Gallery Malaysia (NVAG).

The National Visual Arts Gallery, formerly known as the National Art Gallery was established in 1958. It was established to promote awareness and appreciation for the arts among Malaysians. The Gallery holds exhibits of local and international artists as well as organizes seminars, workshops, art competitions and other art-related activities. In its permanent collection, the Gallery holds over 2,500 artworks.

‘I was appointed on the 1st of November 2013, and the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the Honourable Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Bin Abdul Aziz, gave me the mandate of heading this 55-year-old establishment, the former National Art Gallery. I thank him for his trust in me, to head this prestigious organisation and also to upkeep and the preservation of our rich cultural heritage and national treasure. My job is to maintain these mandates and so here I am, heading this organization,’ said the personable Dale when interviewed by EZ.

Dale, the son of the late Dato’ Lokman Musa, former Malaysian ambassador to France, has always had a penchant for art even though he confesses to not being an artist or a collector, for that matter. ‘Art was something that I appreciated very much, and with all my travels when I was small,’ said Dale, adding that his stint in France gave him ‘a real, big exposure to all the wonderful, magnificent art galleries.’

In retrospect, Dale confesses to not ever for once thinking he would one day end up holding a prominent role in the Malaysian art scene. Not even through his passion for music, which he has not pursued professionally. Dale, who has at times serenaded his audience with his singing, is an avid classical music lover. ‘I play the cello, the piano and the trombone, and I was not at all forced by my parents as it was my choice,’ he said on his musical inclinations.

Moreover, during his undergraduate days in the US, this International Business Administration graduate from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, had a formal introduction to the fine arts through the elective course he took. ‘In university, being an American graduate, we had little activities so I did a lot of art history and comparative art courses,’ he said. He considers his appointment as the chairman of NVAD a blessing, adding that he wants ‘to do well and visit more art museums and galleries around the world and improve our art industry because now, art is not just art, but art economy and art tourism.’

Just as every project that he has attached his name to, the responsibility of leading NVADB is something that he takes seriously and he hopes to bring the board as well as the overall Malaysian art scene to another level. Over the past 55 years since the establishment of NVADB, Malaysian art has made some important strides. ‘We have our names including Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal, Abdul Latiff Mohidin, Datuk Ibrahim Hussein and many more. But it’s not as well-known,’ said Dale when asked to comment on the state of Malaysian art in general, ‘I don’t understand why our artists never manage to be in the fold of many other international artists.’

However, he does make concession for the latest developments on the local art front, especially in terms of government support. ‘Art is very lucrative, but I think now since the advent of 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism, that art, especially in these last ten years to be exact, has become very ‘lucrative’ because art was supposed to be elitist at one time but now, art can be appreciated by anyone in the social structure.’

Expounding on the economics of art in terms of its value, this head of the nation’s foremost art institution thinks the recent developments in the local art scene is healthy. One development in particular bodes good news for the Malaysian art scene that is the setting up of auction houses in the country. In the last four years, four auction houses have been established here, namely Henry Butcher Art Auctioneer, KL Lifestyle Art Space Art Auction, Masterpiece Auction and The Edge Auction.

‘The presence of auction houses is good for Malaysia, for the region and for the local artists. I think Malaysian artists can go very far because their work is now being recognized with the advent of all the auction houses now as compared to before,’ said Dale.

In the past, art in Malaysia was considered as the anak yatim, or orphan, not receiving much support from outside the art circle and been relegated to the lower rungs of the government’s priorities. Yet, the tide has changed with the active participation of the government in promoting art on a larger platform. ‘This anak yatim will completely go forward and be accepted in the main line in the family. He cannot be tersingkir anymore. He cannot be left alone, and live his ‘own little life’ in the corner, and be cocooned because art now is not like art before,’ explained Dale, adding that this is all the more true now since Malaysian art has shown the potential of being very lucrative.

‘Art in Malaysia has to go for a complete turnaround. It was once upon a time something that was very strong, (Malaysia was) a hub for Southeast Asia. Now maybe we have to lead in our own way,’ said Dale. Indeed, at one point in time, Malaysian art enjoyed prominence in the region, but over time, it fizzled down. Neighbouring countries, especially Indonesia, emerged as the new leaders in Southeast Asian art, leading many to claim that Malaysia is a jaguh kampong when it comes to art.

In regards to this matter, Dale said ‘That was maybe so, but during that time we never had to push. The Ministry of Culture then was subtly going away with art as it was very conservative then. But now, I think, with the present ministerial support, we hope that his strong interest in art and also my strong interest in art would see a complete turnaround. We have to work. There’s no such thing as it’s too late to achieve what we have not achieved until now, which is just 55 years of the establishment of the National Art Gallery.’

The way forward, he added, is to ‘have continued dialogues with the local artists and hear their ideas. Either we accept it or we could compromise and go towards the middle of the road and try to improve. We cannot be selfish in our approach of appreciating art and also our approach to make sure that the art will get developed as it should be at 55 years.’

One way, he said, to create a conducive environment for the propagation of the national arts is by getting the people involved. ‘I have asked the National Visual Arts Gallery people to start formulating symposiums, bookshops and also conferences to involve all the artists from Southeast Asia, to make sure that our voices are being heard as compared to all the other artists from the world. If we do not have this unity-in-diversity approach to the whole thing, we would always be left behind and Malaysia will be always in tertiary or secondary compared to the other ASEAN brothers.’

To get to that level, the entire artistic community of Malaysia needs to get on board with the agenda to advance Malaysian art. ‘I want the art industry to grow, and I need help from a lot of people, from all the artist groups in the country present in the country,’ emphasized Dale. Concerted effort is vital for the growth or anything, more so a national art agenda, and the artistic community in Malaysia are quite fragmented. This might pose a threat should NVADB want to work towards increasing the Malaysian art profile internationally and also for Malaysian art to be a strong and have an identity of its own. So how can a united artistic community working for towards a common goal be cultivated?

‘We have to do a deep study that is why dialogues, symposiums and workshops are a must. It’s a need for the young breeds. We have a lot of artists, developing now from so many schools, from the art schools, from the colleges coming up – so many artists but what kind of artists that you like them to be? Are they creators or are they doing art for the money? Or are they doing art themselves and beautify the walls? Are they just graffiti artists? So, we need different kinds of dialogues to understand the whole thing, and how to improve our system. We have 55 years in this business and yet, we are not at par with the people practicing art around the world,’ he explained.

Meanwhile, for the immediate future, Dale said that it is important to bridge the gap between the people and NVAG, mainly to cultivate the interest for the arts. ‘For NVAG, my aim is to increase the accessibility of the Gallery and also to encourage more visitors as far as we can,’ he said. As for the long term, Dale said he hopes ‘to encourage more rapport and cooperation with other international art galleries around the world – for them to have their shows here.’

With the success of the 1Malaysia Contemporary Tourism Festival and the rise of the local art and auction markets, the future of Malaysian art is looking bright. And hearing Dale’s plans for NVADB and NVAG to systematically strengthen the local art community and to raise the standards of Malaysian art is heartening. His closing remarks to EZ captured his zeal for the mandate that has been bestowed upon him; ‘We hope to do a fantastic biennale, triennials organised properly in Malaysia, and I hope we can all fly together to achieve greater heights for everybody. Not just for art lovers, for ‘lovers’ of the Gallery and lovers of anything to do with it because in art, there is beauty and beauty is art.’

Diamonds are Forever

’30 years of framing excellence’ – so reads the tagline of WinSon Loh’s exquisite art book. Loh, who founded the famed PINKGUY® Malaysia Art & Frame, is no stranger in the regional art world. He has framed some of most legendary artworks, from those of Dato’ Chuah Thean Theng and Khalil Ibrahim and Latiff Mohidin to Salvador Dali!

In conjunction with his 30th anniversary in the art and frame scene, Loh has published a coffee table book chronicling his journey, his masterpieces and some of the artworks in the PINKGUY® collection. Launched at Kinokuniya KLCC on 15 November 2013, ‘Diamonds are Forever’ in-of-it-self is a work of art. As with his signature diamond frames, this all-white book has an elegant diamond detail on its spine.

The Malaysian Art Industry

The Asian art market is currently one of the fastest growing business markets in the world, with China, Indonesia and India leading the charge followed by emerging countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore and even Myanmar. Auction houses are consistently hammering art pieces into record prices, making it hard to believe that some still consider art as nothing but a beautiful object that one should only acquire when spare cash is available. This primitive perception has long been overturned in the West where art is not only considered an important part of a growing civilisation, but is also a lucrative and exciting investment. Art in the West do not only to adorn walls, but are also regarded as assets that are kept in the accounting books.

Malaysian contemporary art scene has been relatively slow in entering the international arena. There are artists who have been struggling throughout the years on their own, trying to make a name in the West without the backing of their motherland and it is an uphill task.

The establishment of the National Art Gallery (now known as National Visual Arts Gallery or NVAG) in 1958 by Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was the most important milestone in the Malaysian art history. However, as it happens in almost every other developing country, art came to be considered the ‘adopted child’ in terms of priorities. Fortunately there have been some collectors and institutions collecting Malaysian art since its early days. Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) was one of the early institutions that, through the leadership of its second governor, Tun Ismail Ali, started collecting and supporting Malaysian art since 1962. It was indeed an important step towards recognizing art talents and helping the art industry but the influence then was very much limited.

Many art groups and art societies were formed in the name of art between the 1940s and the 1960s, but most did not survive as art was a tough profession then to be associated with. Remarkably, the oldest registered art society in Malaysia, the Penang Art Society, has not only survived, it has thrived and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013 and boasts a national membership of more than 400.

Furthermore, the support from senior art promoters is invaluable. One of them, Dato’ Dr Tan Chee Khuan, is probably one of the heavyweights in promoting Malaysian pioneer artists since the early 1980s. He has published more than thirty books about Malaysian art and has also donated millions worth of art works to both the national and state art galleries. A person of such vision and patriotism is a rare breed.

Other art related figures are Ooi Kok Chuen and Dr Zakaria Ali, both art writers that have been consistently contributing to local art happenings and its progress through their pens for the past twenty odd years. The setting up of Petronas Gallery in 1993 provided extra avenues in the art market, and together with NVAG, both organisations have consistently collected, exhibited and supported Malaysian contemporary art. Another important Malaysian art movement was the art residency projects by both public institutions and private organisations that provided a platform for artists to excel.

In 2008, art entrepreneur and collector Datuk Vincent Sim pulled his resources together and created another milestone in the Malaysian art industry by conceiving Malaysia’s very own international art exposition – Art Expo Malaysia. It was a move that initially many had thought off as another white elephant, but Datuk Sim and son Sim Pojinn have proved the critics wrong as the show has gone from strength to strength through years of hard work.

Another instrumental development in the Malaysian art front was the Malaysian government’s helping hand in making this art expo even more successful. The 1MCAT (1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism) programme that was initiated in 2010 was the brainchild of the Ministry of Tourism (now known as Ministry of Tourism and Culture) with the intention to promote contemporary Malaysian art as a tourism product catering to the tourists visiting the country.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry, through its external promotion arm, MATRADE, also joined in providing certain tax claimable incentive for local exhibitors, making it more attractive to join in and promote Malaysian art in local and international expositions. Furthermore, it has provided special rates on the space rentals in MATRADE Exhibition & Convention Centre where the Art Expo Malaysia has been holding its expositions for the last few years.

In 2009, prominent Malaysian real estate consultancy, Henry Butcher (HB), teamed up with Vincent Sim and started the HB Art Auction. The arrival of the first proper art auction house in Malaysia was a major boost to the art industry, eliminating the taboo of Malaysian contemporary art having an almost non-existence secondary market. KL Lifestyle Art Space (KLAS) Art Auction was the second one to join the party in 2012, followed by the Indonesian-owned Masterpiece Auction and the Edge Auction in 2013, making an unprecedented yet impressive record of four auction houses conducting more than 10 auctions annually!

With positive anticipation from local art patrons and collectors, the domestic market for Malaysian contemporary art is heading for a bull run. For example, top framer Pinkguy’s gallery reported sold out exhibitions in 2013 of two artists – Suzlee Ibrahim and Ch’ng Huck Theng – less than half an hour after the exhibitions’ openings.

On the other hand, important commercial art galleries, such as Valentine Willie Fine Arts, Wei Ling Gallery, Galeri Chandan and Richard Koh Fine Art, are among the Malaysian galleries that frequent regional art exhibitions, including Hong Kong and Singapore, to further promote their resident artists. The consistency of these galleries’ participations is highly dependent on the commercial return or simply how profitable, but it nonetheless is an applaudable move.

Back in 2009, the NVAG, then led by Director General Datuk Dr Mohamed Najib and its Board, decided to seek MATRADE’s expertise to assist in promoting Malaysian contemporary art overseas. It was not an easy task as art was never considered a product of trade by the ministry. The move was necessary and important as NVAG was of the opinion that there was no proper department in the government sector designated to promote Malaysian art professionally and efficiently in the international stage.

The first meeting was held in MATRADE with Zanita Anuar and Ch’ng Huck Theng representing NVAG and Mustafa Aziz representing MATRADE Centre. As Malaysian contemporary art was at its very early stages in international recognition and without the backing of the government, it was obviously a very difficult journey to pursue. It was akin to a new Malaysian brand or product with a lot of potential trying to penetrate the international market with limited funds and experience.

The big breakthrough was in 2011 for Malaysian contemporary art when it was considered by MATRADE as a product in the soft export category. In mid-2013 MATRADE CEO Datuk Dr. Wong decided to take up the challenge and assist the Malaysian contemporary art, promoting it as a brand and product of Malaysia. This collaboration with NVAG will see Malaysian art promotions in London, Melbourne and Miami. Arts Kuala Lumpur, or Arts KL, is the brainchild of MATRADE, spearheading Malaysian contemporary art into the international business of art by providing a vital connection between local Malaysian art talents and international art players. This is a move that will eventually prosper the Malaysian art business internationally and benefit generations to come.

Artful Living For the 21st Century

For some people, luxury is a way of life rather than an occasional indulgence. Only those residences, cars, wines, watches, jewels and gadgets that live up to the highest standards of quality and style can ever win their approval. These are the people for whom EZ was created. Thanks to the magazine’s unique distribution, these are the people who read it. With a vibrant mix of luxury, fashion and people, EZ is the essential lifestyle companion to Malaysia’s ultra-discerning society.

Published quarterly, EZ can be found for your reading pleasure at the following establishments:

  • major hotels and hospitals
  • selected upmarket boutiques and prominent art galleries
  • food outlets such as restaurants and cafes
  • major bookstores such as Borders, Popular, and MPH
  • selected local and international airports