Shopping for the holidays? Here are places to find local arty gifts


The ‘1000 Tiny Artworks' showcase at The Back Room KL presents 1,000 small artworks over a three-day period. Photo: Artists of SEA

As the year end nears and the holiday season beckons, you're sure to be on the lookout for the perfect gifts for your family and friends – or Secret Santa recipients.

If you're looking to snap up some unique items while helping to support our local art scene and artists at the same time, here are our favourite picks in the Klang Valley!

'1000 TINY ARTWORKS'

The Back Room, Zhongshan building, Kuala Lumpur

You have to hurry with this one! Following the success of the inaugural 1000 Tiny Artworks exhibition in 2021, The Back Room gallery and Studio Red Hong Yi are teaming up again to present the second edition this weekend. Taking place over three days (Dec 1-3), 1000 Tiny Artworks brings back a fresh roster of 100 contemporary artists, each presenting 10 works that measure approximately 10cm x 10cm.

Who are the artists? We have a few names you might recognise: Shafiq Nordin, Haslin Ismail, Ajim Juxta, James Seet, Mark Tan, Liew Kwai Fei, Syahbandi Samat, Lee Mok Yee, Kim Ng, Faizal Yunus, Bibi Chew, Najib Ahmad Bamadhaj, Jerome Kugan, Wong Ming Hao and Anniketyni Madian. Not to forget names such as Jun Kit, Alexdrina Chong, Kangblabla, No-To-Scale*, Loka Made, Joshua Fitton, Jesse Joy and Blankmalaysia, the creative individuals who have expanded the idea of art at local galleries.

The artworks are for sale on a first-come, first-served basis, at the fixed price of only RM100 per work, with all proceeds going to the artists. There's also a layer of intrigue involved, as all artworks will be presented anonymously – buyers will only be able to discover the identity of the artists behind the works after purchasing, as all artworks will only be signed on the back.

Artwork sales limited to five pieces per visitor on Dec 1 and 2. Unlimited on Dec 3! The gallery is open 10am-6pm.

More info here.

Malaysian and regional fanzines will be on parade at the Kuala Lumpur Art Book Festival 2023 next weekend. Photo: KLABF Malaysian and regional fanzines will be on parade at the Kuala Lumpur Art Book Festival 2023 next weekend. Photo: KLABF

KUALA LUMPUR ART BOOK FAIR 2023

Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

There's enough lead time for you to prepare for this much-anticipated event. Get the giant tote bag ready! The Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall will host the third edition of Kuala Lumpur Art Book Fair (KLABF) from Dec 8-10, which will surely be a haven for readers, designers and art lovers.

An impressive line-up of 112 international and homegrown exhibitors from over 13 countries – including Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the Netherlands – will have art books, limited-run imprints, fanzines and exclusive collectibles up for grabs.

Among the featured exhibitors are Ajim Juxta, an award-winning Malaysian visual artist and lyricist known for his creations exploring the topics of architecture, dystopia and mythology; local artist/designer Radio Woon, who is celebrated for his quirky character creations inspired by Malaysia’s multicultural context; Grafis Nusantara, an Indonesian collective committed to the preservation and reproduction of vintage label stickers across the archipelago; Singapore’s In Plain Words, an editorial studio that examines everyday life through food and design; Sojanggak from South Korea, which specialises in crafting books that encapsulate the beauty of visual culture and narratives from South-East Asia; and many more.

KLABF has a RM12 entry fee; free entry for children under 12. Open: Dec 8-10 (noon-8pm).

More info here.

There is no shortage of arty gift ideas at the Ilham Gallery Gift Shop, which carries a well-curated range of art books, prints, posters, bags, board games, ceramic ware, jewellery, handicraft and others. Photo: Ilham Gallery Gift ShopThere is no shortage of arty gift ideas at the Ilham Gallery Gift Shop, which carries a well-curated range of art books, prints, posters, bags, board games, ceramic ware, jewellery, handicraft and others. Photo: Ilham Gallery Gift Shop

ILHAM GALLERY GIFT SHOP

Ilham Tower, Kuala Lumpur

If you can't do pop-up exhibitions and festivals, then a leisurely browsing session is a better idea.

Ilham Gallery's gift shop is a wonder on its own. The shop showcases a range of art-based gifts and souvenirs which have been carefully sourced from contemporary artists, artisans, designers and craftspeople from all over Malaysia, including books, posters, bags, board games and jewellery.

A collection of limited edition prints as well as art books, including the Ilham catalogues, are also available at the shop. A small but well-curated children's book section is also something to check out if you need a gift for a young one.

You'd also find some of the year's best local art books available on the racks here.

All profits from the shop plays a vital part in supporting Ilham’s public and educational programmes.

Open: Tuesday to-Saturday, 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-5pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.

More info here.

A general view of the Riwayat bookshop in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Photo: RiwayatA general view of the Riwayat bookshop in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Riwayat

RIWAYAT BOOKSHOP

Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, KL

Need that new Salleh Ben Joned book? Looking for local photobooks? Alexdrina Chong's artbook 100 Pages Of Solitude? Or Tan Twan Eng's The House of Doors?

Tucked within a cluster of renovated pre-war shophouses along Jalan Tun HS Lee known as High Street Studios (HSS) is Riwayat, known as "downtown Kuala Lumpur's quaint bookstore".

This independent bookshop might have just what you need.

Managed by the friendly Engku Roestam Alias, you'll find an impressive collection of new and used "Malaysiana" and regional books, specialising in historical, non-fiction and literary work.

The space may look small, but Riwayat also carries rare and first editions of books from local and South-East Asian authors you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere, so if you've got a book collector among your loved ones, you may find something they'd like.

Open daily, 11am-7pm.

More info here.

A range of Malaysian-themed paper products designed by Loka Made. Photo: The Star/Art Chen A range of Malaysian-themed paper products designed by Loka Made. Photo: The Star/Art Chen

LOKA MADE

For a younger taste of Malaysiana with a touch of whimsy, you can't go wrong with Loka Made. The homegrown Malaysian brand consists of passionate artists and designers who are proud to stay true to their roots.

Known for their pop-up cards depicting quintessential Malaysian sights like a charming wooden kampung house, vibrant Peranakan heritage storefronts and iconic local delicacies, they've since expanded to postcards, stickers, puzzles, mugs, tote bags and more. Just the place to grab something for your Secret Santa gift exchange!

Loka Made is located at 35-2 (First floor), Jalan USJ 9/5s, Subang Business Centre, Subang Jaya in Selangor. Open: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm. Loka Made products can also be found at Paper Adventures and Tulis Lukis in Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.

More info here.

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