The 60th anniversary celebrations of the National Visual Arts Gallery (NVAG) in Kuala Lumpur will see more than 20 art exhibitions taking place at the national art institution this year.

The main exhibitions will include major recap shows on Malaysian art through the decades, a retrospective show on the late Sabahan artist Datuk Mohd Yaman Ahmad Mus (former Sabah Art Gallery director), an Italian touring exhibition featuring highly-detailed reproductions of Italian baroque painter Caravaggio’s classic works, a major solo show by acclaimed Thai artist Natee Utarit, a Swedish design exhibition, and solo shows by abstract expressionist artist Husain Hourmain and contemporary artist Chang Yoong Chia.

The 60th anniversary celebrations will kick off in April once the inaugural KL Biennale at NVAG ends in March.

The KL Biennale, which is currently on at NVAG, has attracted over 40,000 visitors since it opened in November.

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Professor Mohamed Najib is optimistic that the 60th anniversary celebrations of NVAG, featuring an array of diverse shows, will increase the visitor arrivals. Photo: Bernama

“It’s safe to say that we can expect a revival of interest in local art in the coming year. The KL Biennale, with its steady flow of visitors, has shown that NVAG – with an in-house curatorial team – can deliver on the promise of a major art event,” says Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Najib Ahmad Dawa, NVAG’s director-general, in a recent interview in KL.

“Right now, we have set the momentum and we want to see NVAG continuing to make a case for Malaysian art after the KL Biennale,” he adds.

Prof Mohamed Najib reiterates the fact that the story of Malaysian art is as diverse as it can get.

“Art is inextricably tied to the history of the nation. In this milestone 60th anniversary of the NVAG, we will be going back to look at NVAG’s vast collection, celebrating the country’s visionary, pioneering artists as well as dedicating gallery space to what is happening in Malaysian art right now and to also look ahead. The idea is to give the public a sense of how far we have come with art.”

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Natee Utarit’s Faith And Doubt (oil on linen, 2015). It is part of his upcoming Optimism Is Ridiculous exhibition at NVAG in April. Photo: RK Fine Art

Private Malaysian galleries like Richard Koh Fine Art and Core Design Gallery have also been invited by NVAG to present shows this year, while there will also be the Collector’s Study Room exhibition series, which private collectors have been invited to curate.

“The NVAG is currently in talks with a few other private galleries, so this invite list might see some additions,” he reveals.

In April, the Natee Utarit exhibition, in collaboration with Richard Koh Fine Art, will feature works from Optimism Is Ridiculous, a series which began in 2012 by one of South-East Asia’s most sophisticated and conceptually stylish artists. In May, Husain Hourmain will present his Aku … Dalam Mencari Rukun, based on his signature abstract calligraphy work seen at his Core Design Gallery exhibits.

Caravaggio: Opera Omnia – The Impossible Exhibition, which opens in July, is a collection of 40 high-definition and true-to-scale digital reproductions of the original masterpieces produced by Caravaggio in 17 years (precisely from 1593 and 1610) and scattered throughout the world (in seven countries and 14 different cities).

Throughout this year, the NVAG building itself will be used as an attraction, with the introduction of the Grey Zone area to encourage community-based events, workshops, performances, art markets and live music; and there will also be a street art wall space.

In conjunction with the anniversary, the NVAG will also be opening a visual arts space on Langkawi island in March.

More info: artgallery.gov.my.