A new playground for art

  • Lifestyle
  • Sunday, 01 Jan 2012

After four successful years up north, a gallery opens another outlet in Kuala Lumpur, offering the same personal service.

IT’S hard to tell where the gallery starts and ends. Hanging on one wall are paintings arranged neatly in a row, but turn a corner and you find yourself face to face with a wooden sauna booth. “Sweat For Life,” the tagline says. And right beside it is a huge double bed.

No, it’s not installation art. It’s just that the distinction between furniture and art is sometimes blurred at Bauhaus Rendezvous in Kuala Lumpur.

a2 Gallery owner, curator and artist Alfred Yeoh is rather taken with this concept.

“It’s like a one-stop interior design place at Bauhaus. You have furniture – chairs, tables, beds and lighting equipment, but come up the stairs and here’s the art gallery,” he says.

The first a2 Gallery was established in Penang in a two-storey residence, in 2007.

Yeoh, who previously worked in graphic design and was also a gallery manager, and landscape designer Jeff Jansen, put their heads together and thought it would be “interesting to open an art gallery”.

“Ever since we opened a gallery in Penang, I’ve dreamt of having something in KL as well. So when a friend offered me this space, I jumped at the chance,” Yeoh explains.

The second a2 outlet opened in KL nine days ago. It represents about 20 artists, but various key artists have been placed in a newly established group called e11even. A number of them will be exhibiting their works for the first timeat Bauhaus.

“Many of the artists have only exhibited up north before, some just in Penang. Now we can offer something new to collectors and art lovers,” Yeoh says, during a chat at the new gallery.

There are plans to have a different exhibition each month at Bauhaus, and these will include works by foreign artists.

“It’s important that local artists and art enthusiasts see what people are doing abroad. We want to bring art from all over the world to people here. There are no borders in our world now,” he adds.

The gallery strives to provide interested art buyers with “all the convenience” possible to help them choose the “right” artwork for their homes.

An art space might be nice to wander around in, but a painting up on the gallery wall looks very different from when it is in your living room. And this is something that Yeoh understands well.

The solution, he says, is simple.

Bauhaus will bring the works to you. After all, the gallery’s marketing focus is very much tailored to young, new collectors.

People often end up with something they don’t really like after taking a closer look and then the artwork ends up in storage for an indefinite period of time, Yeoh notes.

“That can be very demotivating for the collector, not getting to display the artwork. That’s why we try to help people have a good start. And feedback has been very good so far.

“It’s a free service. Come visit the gallery and select the works you like and we’ll bring it to your home for viewing. You can decide on the spot which one you like best.”

If contemporary art is your cup of tea, then a2 Gallery is your playground. Yeoh shares the story of a man who went to the gallery with the intention of buying an artwork.

“He said he just wanted one, but when we brought the works to his house, he tried them on different walls and ended up buying six or seven! I always say art is like magic.”

Born and raised in Kedah but currently based in Penang, Yeoh never had any formal training in art, although he has always found it fascinating. It was not until he started managing an art gallery about six years ago that he knew his foray into the industry was to be something more permanent.

“I’ve worked many jobs, but nothing was as satisfying as running the gallery. It felt like I was finally home,” he says.

“I like beautiful things and I’m very happy when surrounded by all these paintings. When I meet people who appreciate art, I feel even happier. I really enjoy guiding those who are just starting to collect art.”

Yeoh started “drawing seriously” about a year after a2 Gallery opened in Penang. He believes that talent cannot be bought, or taught, and being an artist is something he is meant to do.

“Anyone can open a gallery and even close it after a few years if he wants. But if you are an artist ... well, you can be an artist anywhere, everywhere. I can tell you that I plan to work on this for the rest of my life,” he says, naming Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Khoo Sui Hoe and Kow Leong Kiang as among his favourite artists.

Yeoh does some abstract art, but his focus and passion is nudes. He features mostly women, and seldom shows the subject’s face.

“It’s a bit mysterious that way, isn’t it? Then you can imagine the face to be whatever you want. I don’t want people to like or hate a painting only because of the face. I want the focus to be on the beauty of the human body, and at the moment my works portray the stereotypical idea of what beauty is, what the perfect body is.” .

As for what an artist should have to be successful, Yeoh says it’s a combination of knowledge and being bold enough to take the bull by the horns.

“If you are only brave but don’t have the knowledge to go with it, then you will only produce rubbish. And if you have just the know-how but don’t dare take risks, then you might run into problems with expressing yourself through art,” he adds.

a2 Gallery is at 10, Bauhaus Rendezvous, Persiaran Dagang, Bandar Sri Damansara, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. Call 016-490 7320 for more information.

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