The long-awaited reopening of the National Art Gallery (NAG) yesterday (June 21) was a big deal, with the introduction of four exhibitions and the announcement of the 2021 winners of the Young Contemporaries Awards, or Bakat Muda Sezaman (BMS).
NAG in Kuala Lumpur has been closed since August 2020 for renovations.
Now open to the public, visitors are greeted in the lobby by artist Shafiq Nordin’s slightly manic rotating installation, titled Anti-panic purchase. Inspired by the bread shelves left empty during the closures of the past two years, this work is a loaf of bread turned Pop Art. This is the first segment of the short story Simple showcase, which will see two more contemporary artists present their works in the coming months.
The sight of large crowds – over 1,500 every weekend – at Ilham Gallery’s “Ilham Art Show 2022” across the capital is a welcome post-pandemic development of the way major art institutions and galleries have attracted young, culturally savvy art lovers through their doors, while regular art lovers also benefit from the return of the art gallery experience.
The nation finds the national collection
NAG’s main new exhibition Nuse, which features 466 works of art selected from the national permanent collection, occupies five gallery spaces, namely the Reka, Tun Razak, 2A, 2B and 3B. It delves into the stories of the Southeast Asian region, stimulating conversation about social and cultural structures, economic activities, symbols and rituals, as well as identity and diversity.
“We hope this will broaden visitors’ horizons and give them a new perspective on the ethos of Southeast Asia. The National Art Gallery is a space where you can find inspiration and unleash to your imagination,” says Amerrudin Ahmad, Managing Director of the National Art Gallery.
Nuse, a long-term rotating exhibition, will run for three years at the National Art Gallery.
The third exhibition is a more sober offer in the form of the Fotoseni exhibition that presents 130 physical and digital copies of photographic works (from 1963 to 2020) from the national art collection.
Enter a digital world
On the top floor of the gallery is Walk through a song, an immersive pop-up light installation based on an item from the National Museum of Australia’s internationally acclaimed exhibition Songlines: Seven Sisters Track. This is a collaboration with the National Museum of Australia and Mosster Studio.
“We are delighted that Malaysians are the first international audience to experience the pop-up version of this digital installation. Viewers can immerse themselves in the stories, ancient knowledge and artistic ingenuity of the First Australians and appreciate their unique relationship with the land,” said Justin Lee, Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia.
Walk through a song will last until September 11.
The winner of the BMS Grand Prize 2021 is Muhammad Hassanuddin Yusof for his Red dining room installation part. The other categories are Jury Awards, Online Visitors’ Choice, and Onsite Visitors’ Choice.
The NAG upgrade and renovation project cost RM4 million, with funding from the ministry. The main roof, with the concept of “Gajah Menyusu”, still retains NAG’s identity by championing traditional art in a contemporary context.