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Art using calligraphy at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia |© Jorge Láscar / Flickr
Art using calligraphy at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia |© Jorge Láscar / Flickr
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Kuala Lumpur's Must-Visit Contemporary Art Galleries

Picture of Matthew Keyte
Updated: 18 November 2016
Kuala Lumpur is known for being a booming financial and cultural center. A mixture of old colonial and postmodern buildings mark the cityscape, including the magnificent Petronas Towers, which, until 2004 were the tallest buildings in the world. Among the city are plenty of galleries and museums that reflect the rich artistic history of Malaysia. Here are ten places to check out if you’re looking to explore the contemporary arts scene.
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Wei Ling Gallery

The Wei Ling Gallery is one of the premier spaces to find leading contemporary Malaysian and international art. Established at the current location in the Brickfields area of Kuala Lumpur since 2005, the gallery was established by Yohan Rajan and Lim Wei Ling. The gallery showcases works in all artistic media, from painting, architecture, design, drawing, and sculpture to photography and installations. Wei Ling Gallery is also the key publisher of artist books in Malaysia and has published over 100 texts on the work of contemporary figures and their artistic approaches. Prestigious sponsors such as HSBC, Bombay Sapphire, and Siemens back the gallery. There are 12 major exhibitions held each year – featured artists have included the Cuban Nelson Dominguez, the Pakistani Amin Gulgee, and the Australian Stewart MacFarlane have exhibited at Wei Ling.

Wei Ling Gallery, 8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 2260 1106

Street Market Stall Owner, Kuala Lumpur
Street Market Stall Owner, Kuala Lumpur | ©Christopher Crouzet/Flickr
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Galeri Petronas

The Galeri Petronas was set up in 1993 by Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas to promote contemporary artists from within the country. Since 1995, the gallery has been located on the ground floor of the sublime Petronas Towers and features a superb collection of modern landscapes by leading Malaysian artists, including Syed Ahmad Jamal, Abdul Latiff Mohidin and Abdullah Ariff. The gallery also runs regular workshops for members of the public to improve awareness of contemporary art. In 2014, the gallery launched an art competition open to young Malaysian talent with high value prizes.

Galeri Petronas, Suria KLCC, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 2051 7770

Galeri Petronas | ©chinnian/Flickr

Galeri Petronas | ©chinnian/Flickr

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Alliance Francaise

The Alliance Francaise language center is not the first place that you might expect to find contemporary artworks in Kuala Lumpur. But for over a decade now, it has hosted a French art and film festival in the summer months. Each year, they draw in 8,000 visitors to explore the works of leading French artists like Melissa Laveaux and photographer Francoise Huguier. The festival includes artworks in various media, from the visual arts to performances of dance and music. The festival is run by the Alliance Francaise and hosted in their wonderful bungalow-style building near the National Library, along with the French Embassy and corporate sponsors.

Alliance Francaise, 15 Lorong Gurney, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 2694 7880

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The TAKSU gallery was a pioneer in promoting contemporary art in Malaysia and was established all the way back in 1989. Now there are similar galleries in both Bali and Singapore, providing a platform for modern artists from southeast Asia. The gallery in Kuala Lumpur acts as an exhibition space to promote the best young talent in the region, offers advice and consultation to collectors, and supplies clients such as governments, corporations, and other dealers with the best artwork available. In 2004 the TARP (Artist Residency Program) was established to provide a collective exhibition of and solo shows from the most promising up-and-coming talent. The gallery also operates workshops, lectures and public presentations from the artists themselves. Featured talents have included Norberto Roldan from the Philippines, Gan Tee Shang, Fuad Ariff, and Rini Hashim.

TAKSU KL, Jalan Pawang, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 4251 4394

Example of Norberto Roldan's work | ©quietshh/Flickr

Example of Norberto Roldan’s work | ©quietshh/Flickr

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National Visual Arts Gallery

The National Visual Arts Gallery is run by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism in Malaysia and is part of a complex that also includes the National Library and Theatre. The Istant Budaya, or Palace of Culture, considered the premier venue for theatre, opera, and entertainment in Kuala Lumpur is nearby. The building is extraordinary, and features bizarre, almost futuristic, triangular gables in a mass of exploding forms in imitation of a moon kite in flight. The Gallery itself is a pyramidal block and shows off a permanent collection of 4,000 pieces by Malaysian artists including Wong Hoi Cheong, Ahad Osman, and Chuah Than Teng. The collection is a far cry from the early days of the national art collection, which began with only four pieces upon its opening in 1958.

National Visual Arts Gallery, 23B Jalan Bachang, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 4041 8726

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Richard Koh Fine Arts

Richard Koh is one of the premier dealers and promoters of contemporary art in southeast Asia and runs a gallery in Singapore in addition to the Kuala Lumpur location. With over two decades of experience in identifying the best and most promising artists in the region, exhibitions here are popular with local collectors and enthusiasts and international visitors to Kuala Lumpur. Previous exhibitions have featured the works of artists such as Wong Perng Fey, Justin Lim, and Manok Ventura.

Richard Koh Fine Arts, No. 7, 1st Floor, Solaris Mont’kiara Blok E, Jalan Solaris, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 6203 7012

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Galeri Chandan

Galeri Chandan takes its name from the Bukit Chandan center in the northern state of Perak Malaysia, a well-known cultural hub for the production of arts and crafts. The gallery draws on the inspiration of Bukit Chandan and hosts exhibitions of installation work, drawings, paintings, and other media in the field of visual arts. Galeri Chandan also promotes contemporary indigenous art within Malaysia through The Future of Malaysian Art Project, the bi-annual Malaysian Emerging Artist Award, and the Kembara Jiwa, or Travelling Soul, Award designed to showcase Malaysian art to the rest of the world. The gallery also runs the Nafas Residency based in Yogyakarta.

Galeri Chandan, Galeri Chandan 15 Jalan Gelenggang Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 6201 5360

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The Map arts center is made of up two separate facilities that are part of the wider Publika mall. There is the White Box and the Black Box. The former is a 5,000 square-foot open-plan gallery space with flexi-walls that can be set up to suit an exhibition, while the latter is a 250-seat theatre that hosts music events, video installations, and stand-up comedy. The team behind Map@Publika has previously hosted film and music festivals as well as group and solo art exhibitions.

Map@Publika, Jalan Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 6207 9732

TedxKL@Blackbox@MAP@Publika | ©Tessa Houghton/Flickr

TedxKL@Blackbox@MAP@Publika | ©Tessa Houghton/Flickr

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Collectively, the team at Artelier has run projects in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Dubai, Europe, the United States and Indonesia. This Kuala Lumpur gallery specializes in promoting international and local Malaysian artists. Artists who have recently exhibited at Artelier include Fendy Zakri, with his extraordinary smoke and mirrors approach to art, Fauzin Mustafa, Najim Bamadhaj, and Rafiee Ghani.

Artelier, Jalan Dumatas, Kuala Lumpur +60 3 6207 4703