As contemporary art becomes an ever more popular marker of lifestyle and social status, the ways in which audiences interact with the contemporary art world is changing. Traditional gallery models have expanded to include other modes of interaction and retail, and as such the art fair model has become increasingly visible. In 1970 there were just three contemporary art fairs in existence; that number jumped to 269 by 2015. These fairs, which are now to be found in most major cities around the world, act not only as market platforms but also spaces where ideas are exchanged and connections are made.
October 12th to 15th 2017 marked the 11th showcase of Art Expo Malaysia, the longest running international art fair in Southeast Asia. Held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre, the exhibition brought together 70 galleries, Malaysian and international. As in previous years, the fair proved to be well attended (2016 found some 25,000 visitors perusing the art) and the organisers capitalised on audience numbers in order to introduce new areas of knowledge via a series of talks on the Saturday, a bookshop run by National Art Gallery, cultural exchanges with embassies and spotlights on featured artists. Listed below are a series of highlights from the art and programming on offer at Art Expo Malaysia 2017.
Malaysian contemporary art gallery Core Design Gallery is known for setting up landmark booths, using Art Expo as a space to curate exhibitions which unveil current leaders in the Malaysian contemporary art scene. This year was no exception with Selfies, a solo showing of popular mid-career artist Haslin Ismail. A series of ten mixed media self-portraits, comprising of drawing and collage, Selfies was a personal exploration into the many facets of Haslin: as an artist, father, son, comic fan, handyman, athlete, musician. Anchoring the entire display was a long wall papered with charcoal, pencil and acrylic anatomical drawings, over which A Thirsty World, Methods of Destroying, Brain’s A and Mirrors of Self were presented. The resonance of Haslin’s artworks with audiences was apparent through the steady stream of crowds pausing to examine the detailed collages and take pictures of and with the artworks- often in search of the perfect art fair selfie.
"Brain's A" (2016), by Haslin Ismail from the Selfies exhibition at Core Design Gallery's booth
"Remembrance of Trauma's Past" (2017) by Haslin Ismail from the Selfies exhibition at Core Design Gallery's booth
Upon entering the fair, visitors were greeted by a large booth to their right which featured a mini retrospective of Malaysian modernist painter Awang Damit Ahmad. Born in Sabah in 1956, Awang Damit has gained recognition as both artist and academician. Through a series of paintings from the mid-1980’s up until present day, the artist’s distinct abstract signature was revealed. Providing a brief but interesting insight into Awang Damit’s practice, the special tribute booth was a key feature for Art Expo Malaysia to extend the possibility of an art fair beyond the limits of commercialism.
Garismega "Bertahan" (2016) by Awang Damit Ahmad
Marista "Riang-Riang Dan Sebebat Keringat" (1997) by Awang Damit Ahmad
On the left of the entrance, opposite Special Tribute: Awang Damit Ahmad was the booth of Malaysia’s National Art Gallery. Housed within were a selection of artworks by young Malaysian artists participating in the Young Art Entrepreneurs initiative at National Art Gallery, which aims to equip young artists with the skills to build a creative career. The booth also announced the upcoming KL Biennale titled Alami Belas/Be Loved, slated to be on from November 1st 2017 until 31st March 2018. A pop-up bookstore at the front of the booth, offering monographs, exhibition catalogues and archival art competition catalogues, drew in crowds looking for Malaysian art literature.
View of the National Art Gallery Malaysia's booth at Art Expo 2017
On Saturday, 14th October, Art Expo organised a series of talks by art world professionals. These talks, by Sim Polen, Scarlette Lee, Awang Damit Ahmad, Professor Lo Ching, Leticia Hervas, Bingley Sim and Mohamad Majidi Amir, covered a range of topics from the local auction market, collecting practices, personal experiences and role of art institutions. Hosting these talks, which were heavily attended, was a key tool for Art Expo in establishing a knowledge-based role for the fair within the art ecology of South East Asia.
At the end of the day, Art Expo Malaysia is an art fair, and it is the artworks available within the fair that determine its success. Walking around the fair one would notice not only the crowds in attendance but also a great number of coveted round, red stickers dotted next to artworks- indicating the sales of the artworks. Below is a selection of paintings, mixed media artworks and sculptures, which were popular with Art Expo audiences.
"Past Present Future" (2015) by Bestrizal Besta, shown at the booth of Art Porters from Singapore
"Many Roads To Shangri La" (2017) by Yusof Majid, shown at the booth of Nadine Fine Art from Malaysia
Sara Zaher, "Who Is This" (2016) by Sara Zaher, shown at the booth of TAKSU from Malaysia
"I Will Take All The Burden" (2017) by Shafiq Nordin shown at the booth of G13 Gallery from Malaysia
"Triada" (2017) by David Roy Ocotla shown at the booth of X Espacio from Mexico
"The Trails of the Moon" a collaboration between Teo Seng Hong and Mandy Wee shown at the booth of Tree & Me Gallery from Malaysia
Sculptures by Ngo Van Sac shown at the booth of Art Blue Studio from Singapore
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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