Balai Seni Lukis Negara | (c) Mohd. Farid / Flickr
Both modern and traditional arts are highly celebrated by Malaysia, with new forms and styles of art always emerging. Here are some of the best places around the country to see the trends of yesteryear and current influences, both visual and performative.
National Visual Arts Gallery
Neighboring the illustrious Istana Budaya, where national theatrical and orchestra performances are often held, the National Visual Arts Gallery is the place to go for visually striking artworks by both local and foreign talents. Here you can explore the many different styles found all over the country, from the distinct Kelantan Malay styles to the diverse rising modern arts from Kuala Lumpur.
Don’t let this little shop lot space fool you; Awegallery is one of the best places to witness projects bursting with local, everyday flavors in the form of flea markets, performances, presentations and little exhibitions. This tiny indie space is great for finding hidden gem talents for both visual and collectible arts, and often serves as a platform for artists to test the waters for public audiences. Keep a careful eye out for Awegallery, as the minimalist shop sign may be easily missed. Should you wish to host a showcasing of your own, the hall is available for rent, with some event planning advice available.
The longest single cafe in the whole of Penang, this cluster of heritage houses is art gallery/cafe/library/play space/restaurant rolled into one. Offering entertainment from brunch to evening, the ChinaHouse serves up art in the form of food, literature, furniture, performance, paintings and even has a tiny pretty garden.
Located on the border of the affluent town of Hartamas and greater Kuala Lumpur, the Publika Shopping Gallery is more than any ordinary mall in the region. Offering spaces for exhibition hosting with flexible walls for customization to further suit artistic needs, Publika is a one-of-a-kind large-scale art gallery featuring contemporary works all over the mall. It also houses a permanent gallery called Artemis Art, which is dedicated to encouraging young emerging Southeast Asian artists and appreciators to further hone their crafts and learn how to critique art in order to grow as international talents.
The Orangutan House makes itself a distinct attraction among the little shop lots of Melaka with a humongous mural of the cheeky forest dweller. A gallery and studio by artist Charles Cham, this quaint and quirky little shop offers his artworks in the form of prints and paintings. The gallery is committed to an ongoing effort to save the orangutans, who face extinction due to heavy palm oil farming. His fascination with Chinese folklore translates into beautiful dot work reminiscent of Australian Aboriginal styles, yet still distinctively unique.
At this interactive 3D museum, visitors are treated to optical illusions and forced perspectives via amazing murals and displays. In line with Malaysia’s love for record-breaking architecture, the Art in Paradise Gallery on the beautiful island of Langkawi is the largest 3D museum in Malaysia, and so far the second largest in the world. The 100+ exhibits are the handiwork of several Korean artists with amazing skills and attention to detail.
Spotlighting the local contemporary art scene, Artcube provides a growing voice for the younger, more abstractly influenced artistic generation, and hopes to amp up Malaysia’s creative industry. Its large creative spaces encourage people to view the products of budding artists vying for international acclaim. It also aims to inspire more youngsters to become artists. Curated by locals for locals, expect to find new takes on old styles, as well as something out of the ordinary at this exciting gallery.
Claiming to be a democratic space for the arts of all kinds, the Annexe Gallery welcomes all forms of expression for public consumption. It’s situated in the artistic square of Pasar Seni’s Central Market. The gallery reflects the meeting of old and new in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s artistic scene. As it is a place for artistic experimentation, expect to catch events from movie screenings to little performances to exhibitions to the occasional flea market. Purchase handmade items or secondhand books to add to your artsy collection.
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Artfordable takes the extra step by helping people assimilate art into their lives. It provides guides on how art plays a functional part in everyday life, and helps people to install art in their own homes. As the name suggests, most of their art is affordable for middle class budgets and up. The displays vary greatly in theme and are sourced from local artists.
Pioneering the inclusion of 3D printing and laser cutting methods in producing fine arts, the Prototype Gallery embraces new means of expression. It is also responsible for the cultivation of some graffiti art all over Kuala Lumpur. Although its headquarters may be tiny and innocuous, expect to find plenty of weird collectibles and a lot of interesting items produced by their adventurous 3D printers, which are then intricately detailed with laser cutting.