I was subtly into art when I was in my teens, in a sense that I always had a quote I like and written down in my book. Or, I had random lyrics playing in my head when I was a kid, pretending to strum the guitar using a tennis racquet. Art has always been subjective, and everyone has different ways to interpret them using their own perception. I was never aware of the art galleries that was available around Kuala Lumpur until social media convergence came along and one could receive information through their fingertips, not only was it eye-opening; the admissions for the galleries were also free of charge.
The first gallery I visited was National Visual Art Gallery or known as Balai Seni Visual Negara (BSVN). This 3-storey building is always equipped with different types of art and theme. The historical establishment of the National Art Gallery (BSLN) was the result of the initiation of idea suggested between 1954 and 1956 by the Malaya Arts Council, helmed by the late Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard and Frank Sullivan. The last time I was there, they had a ‘Negaraku’, My Country themed artwork. Portraying different ways artists describe the Muslim calligraphy into their canvases and a showcase of articles, magazines, comics of the era when Malaysia had their freedom during the year 1957.
Another free gallery around Kuala Lumpur is The Central Bank of Malaysia’s (Bank Negara Malaysia) Museum and Art Gallery that aims to provide the public with an informal venue for learning about the importance of economics, Islamic banking and financial planning, along with the role that the Central Bank plays in developing economic policies within the country. Collections of Malaysian and Southeast Asian art that was acquired since 1962 is showcased in the Art Gallery. During my visit, I managed to visit the Numismatics Gallery and the Art Gallery itself. The Numismatics Gallery focused on the early history of money and showcased the objects of different shapes and sizes that were commonly used and accepted as currency. The Art Gallery provides a rotating display of the Central Bank of Malaysia’s art collection. Selected paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures which chart the nation’s milestones and highlight the Central Bank’s support for the arts include works by early masters such as Hossein Enas and Yong Mun Sen, continuing up to the present day.
The next gallery with free admission is ILHAM Gallery which is a public art gallery committed to supporting the development, understanding and enjoyment of Malaysian modern and contemporary art within a regional and global context. ILHAM aims to appeal to diverse audiences and serve as a resource for those who are engaged in the arts and those for whom art is a new experience. When I was there recently, there were exhibitions going on which were Latiff Mohidin: Pago-Pago (1960-1969), which is a collaboration with National Gallery Singapore and Centre Pompidou, Paris. The other exhibition was Two Mountains Photography Project 3.0, done by a few artists. The idea behind this ‘joint friendship’ project was to acknowledge the iconic status of Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. Three specially selected photographers from each country were commissioned to photograph personal photo-stories about these reserved peaks. It is by far, my most favourite exhibition today.
The last free art gallery is based in a new location that just opened in Kuala Lumpur called LINC. The Pivotal Exhibition by Art Seni explores Malaysian artists’ interpretation of turning points or life-changing events that they have experienced along their journey as budding artists, translated through their art work that have been curated to fully embody the themes and concepts. It is said also that the exhibition marks the opening of The Linc, a pivotal moment itself and the beginning of greater connectivity and accessibility of art in Malaysia.
There is actually a few more pop-up art scenes around Kuala Lumpur and I have always visited them whenever I can. Art will always be something that everyone can relate to but with their own interpretation of it, which makes it more common and different all at the same time. I would love to see art in Malaysia becoming more well-received and appreciated than they already are.
To more art scenes, splatters of paint and beautiful canvases.
Disclaimer: Pictures are taken and edited by me.