KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's online community was abuzz when the artworks at the ruins of a colonial building downtown, called "Pillars of Sabah", were completely removed and covered with white paint.
The disappearance of the paintings on 31 pillars by 31 artists over the weekend also caught Pillars of Sabah coordinators and artists by surprise as they were not informed of any changes.
Pillars of Sabah, which is held annually, features 31 themes, one for each pillar.
The latest installation, Pillars of Sabah 3.0, aimed at spurring unity during the pandemic was unveiled on Dec 20,2020, and the community art initiative featured artists from diverse backgrounds.
However, Sabah Art Gallery (SAG) - the body that approves any art projects at the ruins - has clarified that the artworks are making way for another upcoming community project called the WOW (Wonders Of Wilderness) Project.
"We are excited by this project as it will be the first big art installation project in Sabah," said SAG curator Jennifer Linggi when contacted, revealing that well-known upcycling artist Japson Wong will be involved.
She said the site preparation started Saturday (April 17) and the project will be ongoing for a few months, with targeted completion in September.
When asked about the Pillars of Sabah artists being kept in the dark over the change, Linggi explained it was not a requirement to inform them just like prior events.
"Any artists are welcome to propose any ideas to the Gallery for the art space in Kota Kinabalu, where previously we had Art Jam (2010), Graffiti Jam (2012) and Pillars of Sabah (2018,2019,2020).
"The issue of artists not being informed is strange.
"During all previous projects, including the Pillars of Sabah 1 and 2, the artists were never informed of the next project," she said, adding that their obligation was to provide a platform for ideas on how to use the space.
Co-founder and co-organiser of Pillars of Sabah, Jared Abdul Rahman, who is also the curator and chief coordinator for Pillars of Sabah 3.0, said no notice was given and he only learned about the matter when one of the artists asked what was happening.
"There was no agreement on a timeframe.
"This was deliberate to maintain some kind of organic approach to the project... But this was based on the assumption that, at the least, we would be informed if there was anything else in the works," he told The Star Monday (April 19).
Meanwhile, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry permanent secretary Dr Jamili Nais shared, in a Facebook post Monday morning, that he had visited the site of the ruins.
"Our side (the governing authority) may have made a misstep in covering up the painted artworks on these pillars too soon without informing the artists," he said in his Facebook post, acknowledging the artists' feelings.