With less than a month to go until the capital’s leading galleries and institutions open their doors for its annual cultural feature. Final developments to the program offer an exciting glimpse into how the 2017 instalment will build on the success of last year’s inaugural weekend, celebrating Malaysian voices and narratives in line with the 60th Anniversary of Malaysian Independence.
The GWKL brings together leading commercial galleries, major public institutions, public art projects and gourmet experiences in a collaborative effort to invite global interest in Malaysia’s rich cultural practices. At its heart is a free programme of exhibitions, with curatorial tours of major institutional collections including the and the . A programme highlight is the popular Luminary Pulse series, for which leading global thinkers will gather to probe ideas at the forefront of contemporary art practice.
Founder and veteran art advisor and gallerist, Shalini Ganendra, comments: “Accessibility and community-engagement have been key principles for the development of GWKL. We see this GWKL as an immersive snapshot experience of the best visual and curatorial art practices, of city exploration and knowledge sharing - with a BIG dose of fun. We want to engage with all audiences.”
Indeed, an increase in attendance is expected this year after the GWKL 2016, which has also led to the forging of exciting new partnerships with relevant international gallery weekends, such as Brussels, Krakow and Barcelona.
Building on the success of last year’s programme, showcase exhibitions will again be presented in leading commercial galleries across the city. This year, a nascent chain of gourmet partnerships will connect visual experiences with good food; visitors can attend galleries or talks, and then have a bite to eat at a recommended gourmet partner.
The GWKL website conveniently suggests routing options, clustering galleries and institutions according to location, with links to the individual gallery programs. All galleries and institutions will be open during the course of the weekend, from 11am – 6pm. There are special events that will take place during the weekend, for which there is program notice on the GWKL website and . GRAB car is supporting the marquee, offering discounted rides with use of promocode ‘GWKL2017’.
Director, Kenny Teng, expresses his excitement to be involved in the GWKL 2017, foreseeing it ‘growing exponentially and perhaps expanding into one of the most important regional programs in the near future’. G13 will present a solo exhibition by Faizal Suhif, open 11am-6pm daily in Petaling Jaya.
Also in Petaling Jaya, ROOTS, Emerging Malaysia at exemplifies an effort to widen the conversation by showcasing new, young Malaysian talent. The exhibition will focus on three developing artists with serious and varied art practises: Afiq Faris, Shaq Koyok and celebrated musician, Alena Murang. All three creators speak to either issues of ethnicity and/or apply traditional techniques in their art making, using batik blocks and natural fibre weaves. SGFA’s Gallery Residence is also a notable visit in and of itself as an early certified Green Space, twice nominated for the Aga Khan Architecture Award.
Nearby is , which will be showing the group exhibition South East Asian Icons. Director and established artist, Yusof Masjid, observes: “over the last few years South East Asian art has been getting a lot of attention. The vibrant city of Kuala Lumpur has a number of exciting gallery spaces exhibiting prominent, as well as up and coming artists from around the region.”
The paired gourmet experience for Petaling Jaya, Tujoh café, is an easy 10 minute walk from SGFA. Tujoh boasts a menu of affordable and tasty cuisine, and their jazzy sound-track and relaxing atmosphere make it a perfect spot to recharge between gallery visits.
Elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur, exhibitions will include; The Horizon is Just Another Illusion; Reflections at (a showcase selection of the long standing gallery’s leading talents); The Blue Mountain at Sutra Foundation; Noor Mahnun: Disco Lombok Still Life at The Edge Galerie; Our Views: Group Exhibition at Pipal Fine Arts; and Southeast Asia: Selected Works at . , and Interpr8 are just 3 of a cluster of several galleries located in Publika; make sure to take a stroll down the Publika ART WALK whilst in the area.
A new feature for this year’s GWKL is guided access through the renowned Zain Azahari Collection, understood as one of Malaysia’s most important private collections, comprising an impressive 500 works. Promising to be an enlightening experience, with a walkthrough led personally by Mr. Azahari himself, this free event is likely to be popular and booking is required.
A few miles out of the city and seemingly in a world of its own is which offers a guided Sunday tour of its garden and grounds with refreshments (free, but limited places – booking advised). Visitors can explore its gallery, heritage houses, contemporary main house and herb garden, in addition to an exhibition by resident artist Zulkifl Li.
Following Rimbun Dahan’s participation in the GWKL 2016, Arts Manager Syar observes: “Southeast Asia is a vibrant region full of so many unique particularities in culture and art. Malaysia is a wonderful example of that, and acts as a bridging platform for our local talents and talents from neighbouring countries, so the Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur is an excellent opportunity to witness these dynamic artistic exchanges and explorations.”
Offering weekend-goers a more hands-on experience this year is the inclusion of new discovery Raksasa Print Studio, centrally located near Petaling Street. Raksasa will run a Bring-your-own T-Shirt: Live Printing workshop, offering visitors a chance to experience the creative, fun environment of an artist-run studio space, whilst also learning about the practical process behind the finished artworks on view. Visitors can also see the exhibition Curious Houses at RAW Art Space, which also features in the GWKL program and shares a space with Raksasa. The Gourmet Partner for central KL is the highly noted .
Bringing together the various strands of the public schedule is the LUMINARY PROGRAM - designed to share knowledge and insights on art and exhibition practice, the art market, collecting and related areas – for which there will be two segments on the Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, Dec. 8th at 4:30pm, the National Visual Arts Gallery will host Curatorial Conversations. The talk will feature internationally renowned artist and director, Herwig Kempinger, currently President of and previous winner of the Fine Arts Prize of the City of Vienna, in conversation with Christine Boehler: curator, coach, writer and producer, Boehler was founding Director of Austria’s , promoting Central, East and Southeast European art, and founder and curator of the Literatur + Medien project from 1996-2015. The differing backgrounds of the participants will make for varied focuses and challenging discussion, with audience participation encouraged.
Insights to collecting will be provided by veteran auctioneer, Dr. Hugo Weihe, on Saturday, December 9 at 3.00pm, at the Islamic Art Museum Auditorium. Previously International Director of Asian Art at Christie’s and currently CEO of , Weihe will bring particular emphasis to the global prospects of art from Emerging Regions, a topic pertinent to the weekend’s focus on Malaysian art. His talk will be followed by a conversational session with renowned architect/commentator Sarah Ichioka. Ichioka is the recent Director of The Architecture Foundation (UK), and her extensive portfolio includes management and curatorial work for institutions including the Tenth Architecture Biennale, Venice, and lead contribution to the 15th Anniversary publication on the Serpentine Pavilion.
That the GWKL is able to attract such personalities is a measure of its growing cultural weight in an increasingly competitive and globalised field. The program is also clearly enlightening for the luminaries themselves; for some, the GWKL is their first experience of Malaysia. Speaking after his participation in the GWKL 2016, renowned ICP curator Christopher Philips commented that it “opened my eyes to the unexpected riches of KL’s artistic culture”; whilst according to celebrated design engineer and RIBA Stirling Award Winner, Hanif Kara, the GWKL “will undoubtedly help reinforce the identity of KL and draw strong attention over time”.
The impact of the inaugural GWKL 2016 set a high bench mark for this year’s edition. If the increasingly varied programme and exciting luminary line-up are anything to go by, visitors can expect a celebration of Malaysian cultural excellence that reaches even further in GWKL 2017. With varied choice, guaranteed visual delights, thought provoking talks and more, expect a program to satiate even the most voracious cultural appetite. With good planning and good shoes, it will be possible to see it all! As Ganendra says:“We lead with Culture. GWKL – Look forward!”
(Visitors can easily take advantage of the full GWKL Program with careful planning referring also to the GWKL Google Map on . The map highlights geographically clustered venues, making it easy to plan tailored and efficient itineraries based on events and locations.)
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