- Stephanie Chang
Kuala Lumpur is one of the most vibrant metropolises in Southeast Asia. Paralleling its rise as a global financial and cultural centre, KL’s contemporary arts scene has witnessed a resurgence of activity anchored by the city’s established arts galleries and spearheaded by a flurry of multidisciplinary and multifunctional arts spaces.
At the forefront of the contemporary arts scene in Kuala Lumpur, Lim Wei-Ling and Yohan Rajan established Wei-Ling Gallery, formerly known as Townhouse Gallery, in 2002. Since 2005, Wei-Ling Gallery has been a cultural hub in the rapidly developing Brickfields district of KL, whose heritage is rooted in Malaysia’s colonial history. With an eye on nurturing contemporary art in Malaysia, Wei-Ling Gallery represents both established artists as well as emerging talent. As a hub for the exchange of aesthetic concepts, Wei-Ling Gallery puts on up to 12 exhibitions a year, featuring both Malaysian artists from modern to contemporary and more recently, hosting showings of regional and international artists from Asia, the Pacific and more.
Spearheading the burgeoning market for contemporary Malaysian art in Malaysia and abroad, Wei-Ling Contemporary opened its doors in 2011 as an extension of Wei-Ling Gallery. Located at The Gardens Mall, Wei-Ling Contemporary has a decided forward-looking focus, holding independent exhibitions several times throughout the year. A spacious, high-ceilinged platform for contemporary art located in a busy public area, Wei-Ling Contemporary responds to the oft-heard criticism about the impenetrability of contemporary art by bringing the contemporary art experience to the public.
TAKSU Kuala Lumpur
Established in 1989, TAKSU now has gallery locations in KL, Bali and Singapore. An undisputed key player in the Southeast Asia arts scene, TAKSU Kuala Lumpur has promoted some of the most outstanding and exciting artists in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. With an intercultural focus, TAKSU also provides curatorial expertise for art exhibitions across the region.
Serious about their aim of fostering the careers of budding contemporary artists and aware of the challenges of breaking into the contemporary art scene, since 2004, TAKSU Kuala Lumpur has set up an Artist Residency Program (TARP) that allows artists to focus on making art. Artists are encouraged to interact with the wider Malaysian community through their solo exhibitions that allow people to understand and interact with art in a vibrantly public and accessible environment.
Valentine Willie Fine Art
Valentine Willie Fine Art represents a wide range of artists working in different media who create works in dialogue with Malaysian and regional history and art. VWFA’s artists include Malaysian-born Emil Goh whose works navigate the banalities of urban life, Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam who documents, critiques and engages Malaysian society through her art and Indonesian artist Putu Sutawijaya whose mixed media works have been widely exhibited.
Richard Koh Fine Art
Located in the trendy area of boutique shops in Bangsar Village II, Richard Koh Fine Art provides an accessible contemporary arts experience for the public. With a regular schedule of exhibitions, Richard Koh Fine Arts focuses on local talent as well as art from Indonesia, India and China. The Gallery was established by well-known Malaysian designer Richard Koh.
Established in 1993, Galeri Petronas is now located on the ground floor of the visually stunning Petronas Towers and offers the undisputed best views of the city. Galeri Petronas provides a cultural venue that features artwork ranging from traditional to contemporary. Painting, sculpture, mixed media and experimental works are regularly rotated in the gallery, which offers the opportunity for an afternoon of fine arts in contrast to the bustle of one of Malaysia’s busiest shopping districts.
Launched in 2007, Annexe Gallery is a center for contemporary art that opened adjacent to KL’s Central Market, a landmark Malaysian heritage site that showcases traditional artisan handicrafts. Not only highlighting the artistic expression of living local artists through exhibitions throughout the year, Annexe Gallery also offers a space for raising the awareness of international contemporary arts trends in Malaysia by regularly exhibiting works by prominent and emerging regional and international artists.
An art gallery in a shopping mall may seem odd to some, but Galeri Chandan, Interpr8 Art Space and MAP@ Publika are at the forefront of pushing contemporary art into the public sphere. With two locations in KL, Galeri Chandan @Publika and Damansara seeks to become ‘a focus of excellence in culture, architecture, arts and crafts’ by drawing together Malaysian artists working across a variety of media. Promoting multidisciplinary works, design and art mingle in Galeri Chandan’s bungalow art space.
An exciting space for multidisciplinary art, MAP@Publika offers two venues for exhibitions, theatre shows, music gigs, dance performances, community arts workshops and more. Blurring the boundaries between different forms of artistic expression, MAP@Publika is a space for creatives of all stripes to engage with and exchange ideas for art in the public sphere. Events hosted by MAP include Fashion shows, Film Nights, Street Art exhibitions, Art Bazaars and MAP’s own Arts Festival.
interpr8 Art Space
Opening its doors in May 2013, interpr8 Art Space is a dynamic newcomer to the contemporary arts scene in Malaysia. Inaugurating its new space in Publika with an exhibition of works by Nik Zainal Abidin, Malaysia’s foremost Wayang Kulit artist, I interpr8 is making waves for its championing of contemporary works that reflect Malaysia’s cultural heritage. The core of the collection is composed of works from Ambassador Dato’ N Parameswaran’s extensive collection of art from Southeast Asia.
Artemis Art Gallery
Another contemporary art gallery that opened the doors to its Publika gallery space in 2013, Artemis Art Gallery is focused on bringing contemporary art to Malaysia’s younger generations. Rather than placed at the periphery, young artists are at the core of Artemis Art Gallery’s vision. Representing young and emerging artists and guiding new collectors through the Malaysian arts scene, Artemis Art Gallery exhibits and promotes works by artists from across Asia, including from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. A hub of cultural activity, Artemis Art Gallery features solo and group exhibitions, book launches as well as art, literature and cultural workshops for the wider community.