The long-awaited reopening of the National Art Gallery (NAG) yesterday (June 21) was a grand affair, with the introduction of four exhibitions and the announcement of the Young Contemporaries Awards, or Bakat Muda Sezaman (BMS), 2021 winners.
NAG in Kuala Lumpur has been closed since August 2020 for renovation works.
Now open to the public, visitors are greeted at the lobby by artist Shafiq Nordin’s slightly manic-looking revolving installation, titled Anti Panic Buying. Inspired by bread shelves left empty during the lockdowns of the past two years, this artwork is a loaf of bread gone Pop Art. It is the first segment of the new Singles showcase, which will see two other contemporary artists presenting their works in the coming months.
The sight of major crowds - more than 1,500 each weekend - at Ilham Gallery's "Ilham Art Show 2022" across the capital is a welcome post-pandemic development of how major art institutions and galleries have been attracting young and culturally-savvy art lovers through their doors, while regular art enthusiasts are also enjoying the return of the art gallery experience.
Nation reunites with national collection
NAG's main new exhibition Nusa, which features 466 artworks selected from the national permanent collection, takes up five gallery spaces, namely the Reka, Tun Razak, 2A, 2B and 3B. It delves into the narratives of the South-East Asian region, stimulating conversation on social and cultural structures, economic activities, symbols and rituals, as well as identity and diversity.
“We hope this will enable visitors to broaden their horizons and give them a new perspective on the ethos of South-East Asia.The National Art Gallery is a space where you can gain inspiration and let your imagination roam free,” says Amerrudin Ahmad, director general of the National Art Gallery.
Nusa, a long-term rotating exhibition, will run for three years at the National Art Gallery.
The third exhibition is a more understated offering in the form of the Fotoseni exhibition which displays 130 physical and digital copies of photographic work (from 1963 to 2020) from the national art collection.
Enter a digital world
On the top floor of the gallery is Walking Through A Songline, an immersive pop-up light installation that is based on a component of the National Museum of Australia’s internationally acclaimed exhibition Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters. This is a collaboration with the National Museum of Australia and Mosster Studio.
“We are delighted that Malaysians will be the first international audience to experience the pop-up version of this digital installation. Viewers can immerse themselves in the stories, ancient knowledge and artistic ingenuity of the First Australians and gain an appreciation for their unique relationship to the land,” says Justin Lee, Australian high commissioner to Malaysia.
Walking Through A Songline will be on until Sept 11.
The BMS 2021 major prize winner is Muhammad Hassanuddin Yusof for his Red Dining installation piece. Other categories are the Jury Awards, Visitors’ Choice Online and Visitors’ Choice On-Site.
The upgrading and renovation project at NAG cost RM4mil, with funding by the ministry. The main roof, with the concept of "Gajah Menyusu", still retains NAG's identity in upholding traditional art in a contemporary context.