When the inaugural Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur (GW-KL) kicks off with exhibitions, talks, cultural tours and workshops held in several locations around the city, it will herald the beginning of, hopefully, better things to come for art here.
It is an initiative spearheaded by Shalini Ganendra, director of Shalini Ganendra Fine Art, who envisions it making ripples in the contemporary creative scene during its three-day run, and beyond.
The first of its kind in this region, it draws its reference point from other Gallery Weekends around the world, in particular the highly successful Gallery Weekend Berlin, which has been running since 2004.
The first GW-KL, which attempts to bridge the different aspects of art and design practices and narratives, has 14 participating galleries (including Artemis Art, HOM Art Trans, Galeri Chandan, G13, NN Gallery, Richard Koh Fine Art, Rimbun Dahan, Segaris Art, Toccata Studio) and institutions such as Galeri Petronas, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, National Textile Museum and Soka Gakkai Malaysia onboard.
“The Gallery Weekend is a concept that is appealing because it is short, sharp and succinct. It is here that we try to make sense of, and connect, the different creative platforms that Malaysia has. Art can encompass any form of creativity and we aim to put all that together in a meaningful narrative,” explains Shalini.
GW-KL sets out to create a platform that provides an informed view of creative practices in Malaysia.
“As a homegrown event with quality content and international connection, it aims to give a localised view of these practices and put them in context. By no means are we being comprehensive; instead, we offer a snapshot of what the country has to offer, a wonderful flash of quality,” she says.
Its theme, Mapping The Multidisciplinary, reflects the different facets of creative expression, and is as all-encompassing as it sounds.
“Obviously visual art is the main focus of the Gallery Weekend, hence the galleries and exhibitions, but we also have other components such as the architectural and design events. There are dining features, hotel collaborations, tours, and of course, the Luminary Pulse Series. It is a manageable three-day event, so if people organise their time and take off their high heels, they can actually whiz through everything the Gallery Weekend offers this year,” she adds.
The participating galleries were given free rein to select their artist representation and the collection of works that will be exhibited. The result is a diverse selection, a glimpse into what Malaysia visual art is, and can be.
The exhibition at Shalini Ganendra Fine Art will be a sneak peek at December’s Look To See, with works by Zac Lee, Bibi Chew and Mok Yee Lee. Visitors can also check out the gallery’s Shadow Garden Pavilion, an installation designed by architect Eleena Jamil.
Rimbun Dahan’s exhibition will feature works by Azliza Ayob, a retelling of her residency journey in a semi-rural village environment in Kuang, Selangor, that combines the utilisation of material from her surroundings with traditional craft and the experience of community living.
“We believe the exhibition will be a snapshot of these layered experiences, combining place, culture, and identity, in a Malaysian context,” offers Rimbun Dahan space manager Syar Alia.
Artemis Art, in line with its focus on supporting young artists, will showcase works by the young and emerging in Presence, a nine-strong exhibition that will serve as an introduction to the multicultural beauty of Malaysia. It is a showcase of works that will demonstrate each artist’s endeavour to carve a unique place for themselves in the country’s dynamically complex art scene. Richard Koh Fine Art will offer a preview of works by seven artists – Anne Samat, Gan Chin Lee, Haffendi Anuar, Hasanul Isyraf Idris, Hings Lim, Liew Kwai Fei and Yeoh Choo Kuan – before the main showcases in 2017.
“This is a teaser for what is to come next year. The presentation of works in various formats and medium, including wall sculptures, sculptural drawings and paintings, is an attempt to highlight the diverse practices of some exciting artists in Malaysia. The Gallery Weekend gives more awareness to the general public to engage with art and culture,” says gallery founder Richard Koh.
Aside from the art exhibitions and gallery tours, the programme includes dining experiences as well as a Luminary Pulse Series of talks by renowned American curator and art critic Christopher Phillips (Nov 26, 3pm, National Visual Art Gallery auditorium) and British structural engineer and designer Hanif Kara (Nov 27, 3pm, Islamic Arts Museum auditorium).
Phillips has been curator at New York’s famed International Center of Photography for over 20 years and was a former editor of Art in America, for which he still writes. At GW-KL, he will speak about young artists whose art practice involves working simultaneously with multiple mediums, a move away from the conventionally self-contained disciplines such as painting, sculpture, drawing or video.
Hanif, who is currently professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and divides his time between Britain and the US, is the first structural engineer to be selected for the Master Jury for the 2004 cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. He will discuss the value and impact of informed multidisciplinary practices for sustainable place-making and design-based development.
“The value of culture is largely blind to Geography yet we know its implications as belief, values and preferences play a key part in changing behaviours. Malaysia has an opportunity to seize something from its rich past and embrace the role that can be played by museums and cultural institutions to enrich life. Perhaps in an era of uncertainty and ambiguity, these places are the engines for a new economy and improved quality of life. The design of your built environment must thus not be a gamble or a whimsical decision,” he says.
GW-KL, which is set to be an annual event, has two things built into its framework that sets the tone for what it aspires to achieve. Firstly, it will always be free for the public; and secondly, its multidisciplinary approach will be a permanent presence.
“This is exactly how it should be, because the Gallery Weekend is all about accessibility and appreciation. We need to set up venues and platforms that are free for the public so we can stimulate interest and nurture appreciation,” says Shalini, who believes that art should be the voice of, and for, the people.
Art provides a vocabulary to communicate with different groups of people, and the Gallery Weekend is, to her, very much a gathering of people who appreciate how important it is to embrace differences and make something unique out of it.
“We see the Gallery Weekend as a golden nugget in general National Building efforts, to focus on what we do well, on how we create, visualise and deliver; and of course, how we meaningfully engage locally and globally,” she says.
GW-KL is also about countering the idea of art as elitist. She muses that art collecting could be perceived as an elitist pastime only because it involves money, but appreciation is free.
“You can visit galleries for free, you can ask questions, you can speak to artists – we have a lot going on here in Malaysia that we can inform ourselves with,” she says.
“It has been a challenging pleasure, over the span of eight months, to bring the Gallery Weekend to inaugural fruition. We look forward to further development and participation by more galleries, collectors and special projects in future editions,” she concludes.
Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur (GW-KL) runs from Nov 25 to 27. Entry to the events are free but note that registration is required for selected programmes. Visit www.gw-kl.com for the schedule and more information.