Gallery surge: 'Ilham Art Show' opening weekend draws a record 1,550 visitors


Part of the queue of visitors waiting to enter Ilham Gallery in Kuala Lumpur last weekend. The 'Ilham Art Show 2022' attracted 1,550 visitors, a record opening weekend attendance for the public art gallery. Photo: Ilham Gallery

Big crowds and long queues at Malaysian art galleries might be the new normal.

Ilham Gallery, a (free admission) public art institution in Kuala Lumpur, attracted a bumper crowd of 1,550 visitors for its Ilham Art Show 2022 last weekend.

It was the exhibition’s opening weekend, with the visitor count setting a new record for Ilham Gallery.

Ilham Gallery’s visitor numbers have been steadily increasing since last year with the well-received Kok Yew Puah exhibition, which recorded over 500 visitors on an average weekend. But that number tripled last weekend.

“The response to the Ilham Art Show has been overwhelming with people actually queuing up to get in over the weekend. While we are used to seeing people waiting in queues to see art in Europe and the US, it's a rare sight in Malaysia,” says Rahel Joseph, gallery director of Ilham.

Visitors posing for photographs at Azzaha Ibrahim's 'After Monsoon' installation (single channel video, 2022). Photo: The Star/Low Lay PhonVisitors posing for photographs at Azzaha Ibrahim's 'After Monsoon' installation (single channel video, 2022). Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon

“In terms of crowd management, we only allow a certain number of people in the gallery at one time - we have to do this to ensure the safety of the art and the visitors, as this exhibition has a lot of large installation works. However, we are not complaining - this is a very good problem to have! It's been wonderful to see so many young people visiting the exhibition as well - it's not your usual art-going crowd,” she adds.

The Ilham Art Show 2022 exhibition, which is also the gallery’s first open call, highlights works by 31 Malaysian artists from an inter-generational age, with both emerging as well as established artists and collectives.

From visual art and multimedia exploration right to video works and art installations, the Ilham Art Show 2022 offers visitors a glimpse of contemporary Malaysian art in these pandemic times.

Visitors waited orderly and patiently to get into Ilham Gallery last weekend, which underlined the young public's appetite to experience and enjoy art. Photo: Azizan PaimanVisitors waited orderly and patiently to get into Ilham Gallery last weekend, which underlined the young public's appetite to experience and enjoy art. Photo: Azizan Paiman

Community spirit is central to Sabahan art collective Pangrok Sulap’s woodcut print on fabric works at the exhibition, which highlight indigenous women weavers, while Chang Yoong Chia's batik wall installation revisits an overlooked chapter in Malaysian post-war history. Azizan Paiman’s sculptural box offers a pointed take on times of upheaval, while Leon Leong’s kampung house installation shares his research and art inspired by a Malay community and their heritage story in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the other selected artists include Dhavinder Singh, Haffendi Anuar, Hasanul Isyraf Idris, Hoo Fan Chon, Ivan Lam, Izat Arif, Kamal Sabran, Kim, Kumpulan Ukir Kite’ Kelab Kebudayaan Mah Meri, Samsudin Wahab, Sharon Chin, Tan Zi Hao, Tetriana Ahmed Fauzi, Tin and Theyvapaalan S Jayaratnam, and Yeoh Choo Kuan.

A general view of the 'Ilham Art Show 2022'. Photo: The Star/Low Lay PhonA general view of the 'Ilham Art Show 2022'. Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon

“When we announced the inception of the Ilham Art Show, the country was under its second lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With museums and galleries closed for extended periods, it felt more important than ever to introduce a programme that would support contemporary artists and stimulate public discussion and critical debate in Malaysia,” outlines a statement from the exhibition.

Several public programmes, activities and gallery tours will be accompanying the exhibition in the coming months. Despite the recent crowd surge, Ilham Gallery is confident of managing the exhibition and will not be introducing time limit slots for visitors to view the artworks.

“For people coming in larger groups, we would suggest visiting on weekdays to avoid the crowds. The exhibition will be running until Oct 23 so there is plenty of time to catch the show,” concludes Joseph.

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