FORGOTTEN masters of Malaysian modern and contemporary art by new enthusiasts mark a missing link between generations.
Aiming to fill this void, the KL Lifestyle Art Space (KLAS) Art Auction 2014 will feature 95 artworks from prominent senior artists, including Yusof Ghani, Khalil Ibrahim, Latiff Mohidin and Grace Selvanayagam.
KLAS chief executive officer Datuk Gary Thanasan said the 11th edition of the art auction would resurface great treasures by local and Singaporean artists during the early movement of art in Malaya to its deserving glory.
“Out of the 11 auctions we have done thus far, this is the most exciting collection of works we have had consigned to us.
“For the first time in the Malaysian art auction scene, people will get to see an oil on canvas known as ‘Chinese Junk’ by the father of modern art in Malaysia, Abdullah Ariff, from 1956.” he said, adding that the painting was an important treasure of our history and identity.
“In the early days, junks from China and Manila sailed into Penang with secret consignments of opium and various spices. It was a common sight in Malaysian waters, but you do not see them any more as these scenes are not preserved.
“The only way to capture history sometimes is through paintings. And this why art by early modernists play a pivotal role in reviving our forgotten stories and landscapes.” he said, adding that the KLAS auction was geared towards restoring the glory of such artworks and great names.
Gary explained that auctions and exhibitions also played an important role in creating awareness on the value of such artworks and names of senior artists.
“Auctions have done great justice to a forgotten artists and new collectors. We have a number of seniors who are unheard of before and have become highly sought after, once their works appear at the auctions.
“While old artists gain exposure of their work, new collectors gain greater exposure to these names and quality of art.
“Prior to this, people did not know the value of these works, they were just buying it at face value and whatever price is stipulated by the gallery. But today, you can check and find out much more about the painting and the artist, as well as the last transaction price of the artwork to gauge whether there is a rise and fall in its price.”
Citing one of the key paintings at the art auction, ‘The Red Dreaming’ by local modern master artist Jolly Koh, Gary said there were still artists who have been present in the scene but under-recognised for their contribution to the art movement of Malaysia.
“Jolly Koh’s 179 x 220 cm acrylic and oil on canvas from 2004, was initially a private commission to KL Hilton. It was placed in the hotel lobby area behind a mooncake counter in the main foyer. At the time, it was sold for only RM20,000, but today it is valued at close to RM200,000, now that it is featured at the art auction.
“Very often, it is through the auction that the actual value of a master’s work will surface,” he said, adding that Jolly Koh was one of the pillars in starting up the art faculty of Mara and the early movement of art in Malaya.
Gary said not only were the works of masters worthy of its aesthetic value, it was a quality investment.
“A lot of people I know buy art for its aesthetic value. I am one of those people that buys a piece of art for its aesthetic value and investment. Of course, I have to like what I buy, but I always make sure that it has a greater value so I can pass it on to my children someday or I can sell it off in the future,” said the father of three.
“Not only will these masterpieces impart wisdom to future generations, it will also bring greater prosperity,” he said.
Along with special section on artwork by Singaporean masters, KLAS Art Auction 2014 will also shine the spotlight on notable artworks from Vietnamese, Indonesian and Chinese masters.
“We have had several Singaporean works consigned to us, their faith in us to sell the works of Singaporean artists is a huge honour, as they have the confidence in us to remarket it back to them,” he said, adding that many Singaporean art collectors were approaching him to buy Singaporean artworks.
“With the auction scene and the interest shown by Singaporean art enthusiasts, I think Malaysia is heading in the right direction in becoming a hub for modern art.”
Gary encouraged new collectors attending the auction to study the names of the masters and also pay close attention to how senior collectors look at Malaysian art, in order to understand how it is appreciated and valued.
“The thing about collecting works by masters is that there is so much history.
“For me, before I purchase works by the artists I spend time reading up on the artist and the more I discover their story and thought process in creating the artwork the more attached I become to it.
“The storytelling behind the artwork is very important in connecting the artist, the artwork and the collector,” he said, adding that one of the first artists he found himself most connected to was Khalil Ibrahim.
KLAS Art Auction 2014: Malaysian Modern and Contemporary Art commences tomorrow at 1pm in Connexion@Nexus, Bangsar South. Admission is free.
For catalogue information, visit www.kl-lifestyle.com.my. For bidder registration and enquiries, please call 019-260 9668 (Lydia Teoh) or 019-333 7668 (Shamila).