Senior Malaysian artist/poet Latiff Mohidin and his seminal Pago Pago series are the subject of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris next month.

This collaboration between National Gallery Singapore and Centre Pompidou, which opens on Feb 28, marks an extension of the ground-breaking project Reframing Modernism: Painting From South-East Asia, Europe And Beyond held at National Gallery Singapore in 2016.

The exhibition Pago Pago: Latiff Mohidin (1960-1969) features more than 70 modernist works and will focus on a crucial period in this Lenggeng, Negri Sembilan-born artist’s career.

It will also be Centre Pompidou’s first exhibition about South-East Asian art held at its In-Focus Gallery.

Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago (1960-1969) is a further testimony to our commitment to partner with important institutions around the world. Working with National Gallery Singapore for Reframing Modernism was truly a major event for us, and offered fresh perspectives about modern art from South-East Asia, Europe and beyond. Similarly, this new collaboration provides an invaluable opportunity for our audience to view major works from one of the most important South-East Asian artists in today’s world, alongside the masters in our permanent galleries,” says Serge Lasvignes, president of the Centre Pompidou, in a media statement.


Latiff’s Pagodas II, Pago Pago Series (oil on canvas, 1964). Photo: National Gallery Singapore

In an illustrious career spanning more than 65 years, Latiff studied art in Europe, experimented with painting, sculpture, print-making, translated literature, composed poems and published books.

The Penang-based Latiff, 76, who is still active in the arts scene, now commutes between Penang and Kuala Lumpur. He read poetry at the Nusantara Festival of Malay Language and Literature in Shah Alam last month. Some of Latiff’s works can also be viewed now at the Gerak Rupa Ubur Penyataan 1957–1973 show at Ilham Gallery in KL.

As a favourite among collectors, Latiff’s art is much in demand.  His 1968 painting, Pago-Pago Forms, was sold for RM572,000 in 2011 at an auction in KL.

The upcoming Pago Pago: Latiff Mohidin (1960-1969) in Paris, conceived by the curators Catherine David of Centre Pompidou and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa of National Gallery Singapore, aims to serve as a micro-history that situates one of South-East Asia’s leading modernists in dialogue with his Western peers.

The exhibition is set in the 1960s when Latiff embarked upon his formal study of art at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in West Berlin from 1961 to 1964. Ranging from the emotional states of German Expressionism that Latiff encountered during his formative years in Berlin to the ancestral imaginary of his rural upbringing in British Malaya, Pago Pago became a way of thinking manifested in a constellation of paintings, sculptures, prints poetry and writings.


Two Standing Figures, Pago Pago series (oil on canvas, 1968). Photo: National Gallery Singapore

“The National Gallery Singapore’s curatorial efforts have sought to actively engage debates of modernism within a global context. The Gallery is delighted to continue this successful partnership with Centre Pompidou by presenting our first travelling show on South-East Asian art,” says Dr Eugene Tan, director of National Gallery Singapore.

“The exhibition showcases Latiff Mohidin’s art during the 1960s, which was a decade that marked such significant shifts both in South-East Asia and Europe. Latiff Mohidin is not only one of South-East Asia’s leading artists, it could be said that he is one of the first artists of the region to imagine ‘South-East Asia’ as a distinct aesthetic realm, ” he adds.

Alongside the exhibition, a publication featuring critical writings related to Pago Pago is being edited by the exhibition’s curators. A special public programme that surveys Latiff’s literary activities in the 1960s and 1970s featuring the writers Goenawan Mohammad, Idanna Pucci and Terence Ward will be held at Centre Pompidou on Feb 28.

Pago Pago: Latiff Mohidin (1960-1969) will show at Centre Pompidou in Paris from Feb 28- May 28.