Art market moving to cyberspace

LOCAL artists have welcomed news that the Penang State Art Gallery (PSAG) will be starting a series of exhibitions online soon.

This will start in June with Belang – a show aimed at raising public awareness on the need to protect the critically threatened Malayan tiger for the sake of future generations.

The move to cyberspace follows several similar initiatives by private galleries and art collectives to keep creative expression relevant in the face of trying times caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic.Beautiful artworks of the Malayan tiger will be featured online in the Belang exhibition by Penang State Art Gallery.Beautiful artworks of the Malayan tiger will be featured online in the Belang exhibition by Penang State Art Gallery.

However, the jury is still out on how effective the internet would be as an art marketing tool.

With art traditionally consumed on-site and in-person, it may take a while for the market to warm to the virtual approach.

Penang Water Colour Society president Khoo Cheang Jin believes that something is better than nothing – with the internet’s vast reach at least giving artists a platform to show their works to the masses.

“It will be the new norm while we’re unable to have physical exhibitions. But whether this will translate into sales, remains to be seen.

“Even before the recent movement control order (MCO), many would have already displayed their works in virtual galleries on their personal social media channels.

“I guess many collectors prefer to see the actual artworks before making a commitment. It will take some time for people to get used to online exhibitions, ” said Khoo, who is also co-founder of the Urban Sketchers group.

Fellow artist Koay Sheng Tat echoed those sentiments. While he participated in some online shows during the MCO, he is still awaiting a first online sale.

“From a buyer’s perspective, perhaps they are worried that what they see on a computer screen, such as the colours or textures, may not reflect that of the actual artwork.

“Senior or established artists may have an advantage selling online as regular collectors and agencies would be familiar with their quality of work. Younger or emerging artists may find it more challenging to attract buyers.”

Regardless, Koay believes everyone has to start somewhere and feels grateful to the various parties holding online exhibitions as it keeps the art market active during this uncertain period.

“It motivates artists to keep producing artworks. For now, the internet is the best way to connect everyone. Hopefully with time, it’ll become a popular platform for art lovers to purchase their favourite pieces, ” Koay added.

State tourism, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said the digitalisation of PSAG’s shows is part of the government’s efforts to help industry players navigate current challenges.

“Everyone, including those involved in arts and culture, has to prepare for and embrace new norms during and after the pandemic, ” he noted in a media statement.

He explained that the Belang exhibition originally kicked off at PSAG’s spaces in Dewan Sri Pinang in early March, but had to be closed halfway through due to the Covid-19 situation.

Yeoh added: “Now that it’s returning digitally, art lovers will be able to enjoy all the masterpieces through their digital gadgets.

“One can also look forward to many more exhibitions held through this digital platform.”

The Belang exhibition starts online on Tuesday. For more details, visit

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