Under One Tree (acrylic on canvas, 28.6cmx27.5cm, 2015) by Rosmaini Sunarjo.
It is not unfamiliar to hear that art doesn’t have to be expensive, abstract or inaccessible to the average Joe. But the 300 exhibition now showing at the Sabah Art Gallery in Kota Kinabalu takes it to a whole new level.
This exhibition changes its look as quickly as the paintings fly off the gallery walls, simply because when they are sold and carted off by an enthusiastic buyer, a new artwork replaces the space on the wall.
The exhibition’s name comes from the price of the artworks, each going for an modest RM300. Thirty participating artists from Sabah are involved in this show, which was supposed end June 30, but has been extended to Aug 5 due to public demand. More than 100 works have already been sold.
300 was born out of a desire to challenge the misconception that art is an elitist hobby, as well as the perception that art is always expensive. But above all, it aims to introduce art by Sabahan artists to the public, according to Kudat-based artist Jainal Amambing, 47, who got together with a few artist friends to kickstart this project.
Jainal aims to make this an annual event, already planning for a bigger show next year even before the one this year ends.
“Maybe we will have 1,000 artworks the next time,” he says, hoping that the exhibition will reach out far and wide, and attract people not only Malaysians, but also from abroad, to swing by for a visit.
Sabah Art Gallery, the venue for the exhibition, is the first officially Silver-certified green building in the state, and the first green public gallery in Malaysia. It was founded in 1984, but did not have any permanent premises to call its own until it moved into its current home at Jalan Penampang, Kota Kinabalu, in January 2013.
Before this, it shared facilities with the Sabah State Museum and exhibitions were held in a variety of venues around the city.
The gallery holds five art exhibitions annually. In addition, it also hosts private exhibitions, concerts, youth programmes, dance workshops and other art-related activities.
On the 300 exhibition, Sabah Art Gallery curator Jennifer Linggi confirms that it is indeed an unusual one for the gallery in terms of concept and number of works.
“We have never put up 300 pieces in one exhibition before. Each artist produced 10 artworks and it was interesting to see how most of them kept to their signature styles,” she shares.
Jennifer adds that when she first heard about this exhibition idea, she was immediately drawn to the fact that there was a standard price for all artworks, and at an affordable price.
“What was wonderful is that the idea came from the artists themselves who were willing to sell their works at this price. We then decided to keep the number 3 and 0, so the outcome was 30 artists, 30 days, 300 artworks, all priced at RM300 each,” she relates.
The artists adopted a rather hands-on approach to this exhibition, from idea conception to getting fellow artists to come onboard this venture, and other nitty-gritty details along the way like making sure everyone met their deadlines for artwork submission.
The gallery offered the venue, a bit of curatorial guidance, some supporting materials – and the show was set to go.
Out of the 30 artists, six are exhibiting at the Sabah Art Gallery for the first time. The others include prominent local artists like Jainal, Awang Fadilah, Azlan Dulikab, Christianne Goonting and art collective Pangrok Sulap.
A local thread runs through most of the artworks in 300, many depicting common scenes and events from everyday life in the Land Below the Wind, combining culture, tradition and wildlife in a diverse and vibrant package.
“One common feature of the art we create is that it is often very colourful. Many of us Sabahan artists like using bright colours,” says Jainal.
It seems that it sits well with the public too, as response to 300 has been astounding, according to Jennifer.
“During the launch itself, over 40 artworks were booked. In a month, we sold 100 paintings,” she shares. “This is unheard of in any of our exhibitions in the 30 years of our existence. It is truly a record!”
300 is on at Sabah Art Gallery (Mile 2, Jalan Penampang, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah) till Aug 5. Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily. Call 088-268748/825/875/806 or visit www.sabahartgallery.com. FB: Sabah Art Gallery