MCO: Art galleries in the Klang Valley target digital space but sustainability a concern

G13 Gallery's current exhibition, Mosaic, a solo by renowned abstract artist Tajuddin Ismail, had just opened on Monday (Jan 11), the same day the new measures to curb the Covid-19 outbreak were announced.

With the gallery in Petaling Jaya having to close, this exhibition will now be converted into an online show.

In fact, the gallery plans to relook at all the exhibitions they had planned for the coming months and spend the MCO working on converting them to an online version.

“As of now, we have already started our preparations for the transition into online viewing. This includes footage of artist interviews, photoshoot of installation views as well as videography of the artworks to be exhibited. We plan to showcase the artworks online in order for fellow art lovers to be able to view and enjoy the pieces without having to physically go to our venue, ” says G13 Gallery founder Kenny Teng.

There were multiple foreign art fairs in the works for the gallery this year, but the latest developments with regards to the pandemic now means that they have decided to cancel all overseas participation for 2021.

“We will instead focus on local programmes. It has been a tough journey since the last MCO, but programmes were still carried out as planned, but with some adjustments to adapt to current conditions, ” he says.

Tun Perak Co-op in Kuala Lumpur was supposed to launch its first major art exhibition of 2021 with the May We... group show on Jan 16, supported by Japan Foundation Asia Center. The site-specific show features works from Ali Alasri, Dhavinder Singh, Paul Nickson, and Shamin Sahrum.

"In the last six months, Tun Perak Co-op had been a staunch supporter of the May We... exhibition. The artists had been hard at work installations their artworks in our space over the past few days. Unfortunately the opening of the exhibition falls a few days after the start of our nation’s second MCO in response to the alarming number of cases In adhering to the MCO laws and SOPs, Tun Perak Co-op will remain closed till further notice but rest assured the curators, artists and organisers are working on plans to share the exhibition to you at home," reads a statement from the arts venue.

Beatrice Leong, Tun Perak Co-op founder, says a last minute decision was made with the show's curators (Rebecca Yeoh and Azzad Diah) organisers to continue with the May We... exhibition.

"This exhibition is very much an on-site experience, a lot of hard work has been put into it, but the pandemic situation now will not allow for a walk-in show. Everyone involved had to stay focused and rethink of ways for May We... to reach the art public. The show will go virtual," says Leong.

Over at Segaris Art Center in KL, the gallery was planning to launch a group exhibition featuring young and new artists next week.

But with the newly-announced restrictions enforced since Jan 13, the gallery will be closed during this period and the exhibition postponed until further notice.

"We will use this extra time to work on putting the exhibition together and fine-tuning all the behind-the-scenes preparations, including producing a catalogue. We will also continue with our efforts in engaging with the public through our social media and extend our Relook 2 show which consists of artworks from our repository.

"Despite all the challenges of the past year, one thing good that came out of it was that we gained almost twice the number of followers during this time, and sales transactions persist. Additionally, in view of the overall pandemic and lockdown situations, we are amidst of studying the approach and mechanics for an alternative online business module to appeal more to the volume of B40 and M40. It will still involve exclusive creative goods, ” according to a statement from Segaris Art Center.

The gallery’s last exhibition was A Decade Fadilah Karim 2010-2020 and Relook 2. Relook 2 will continue (visit their instagram @segarisartcenter) with added items in the inventory.

In downtown KL, Ilham Gallery will be closed until further notice as well. It has two exhibitions running at the moment: Homebody: Finalists Of The Ilham Kids ‘MCO’ Art Competition and Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam: Photographic Cultures In Malaysia.

The latter has a 360 interactive virtual tour available on the gallery website, so you can access the show virtually during the lockdown and beyond.

“While the Gallery is closed, we will continue to work on our upcoming exhibitions. All the unseen work that goes into an exhibition – the research work, negotiation of artwork loans, writing, planning and so on – can all still happen from home. Our exhibition timelines will shift but we are not planning to cancel any programmes at this juncture, ” says gallery director Rahel Joseph.

Last year, Ilham Gallery was closed for 27 weeks in total. While the gallery was closed and its public and education programmes suspended, the team managed to pivot to digital programming to feature artist conversations and artist “takeovers”, curatorial tours and interviews.

“We also organised our first 360 VR tour of our exhibitions so the public could access the shows virtually during the lockdown. The past year has been a challenging one, as it has for everyone. If anything, 2020 has taught us that we have to be adaptable. During this lockdown, we will continue to programme and engage through our social media @ilhamgallerykl, ” says Rahel.

Wei-Ling Gallery (Brickfields) and Wei-Ling Contemporary (The Gardens Mall) also announced they will be closed until Jan 26. The galleries have three shows during this MCO period, which include painter Hamidi Hadi's Saring II: Sublimity, Wong Chee Meng's Good Days Will Come and the group show S.E.A. Focus 2021 (curated and digital).

Currently they are participating in Singapore‘s SEA Focus art fair, which will take the form of both a digital and physical exhibition.

"We see that this second MCO is a little bit more relaxed in the sense that I do believe that furniture stores, jewellery shops and other retail outlets are still able to operate, provided there is approval from the Ministry of Trade. We are taking things in our stride and will continue to observe all SOPs in relation to handling or managing the situation. In the meantime, we will continue with updating our social media and other online activities," says gallery founder Lim Wei-Ling.

On virtual exhibitions, she comments that it allows a glimpse into what one might expect when they visit the exhibition in person.

"But it is still imperative for the viewer to get the full impact of the artwork by standing in front of it, feeling it and/or interacting with it. Artworks still need to be seen in the flesh and experienced firsthand, up close. I suppose virtual exhibitions are the next best thing, if you cannot visit the gallery physically, but certainly not ideal," she notes.

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Art , Exhibition , Klang Valley , MCO , virtual show


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