The most popular art show of 2019 looks set to have been the National Art Gallery’s (NAG) Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition, Leonardo Opera Omnia, which drew a record-breaking 89,500 visitors for the venue.
Although the show ended its month-long run on 15 August, the rest of the year promises some equally tantalising art gems for KLites and visitors to enjoy.
Best of fine art, local and international
KL’s second-ever art biennale, organised by NAG, is due in 2020, primed to coincide with Visit Malaysia Year. Savvy art lovers have already been able to get a foretaste, with events like August’s Festival Anak Muda, which featured the best of Malaysia’s young talents across the arts and cultural spectrum, from fine art to music, traditional culture to poetry, animation to metalsmithing.
NAG’s runup to the biennale continues with a retrospective of the works of the late, great Ismail Zain. The Kedah-born artist, who was also NAG’s director in the 1970s, is considered one of Malaysia’s digital art pioneers, with a challenging multi-disciplinary oeuvre.
Ismail’s postmodern works, which often used semiotics to juxtapose symbols, objects and cultural images in order to examine the complexities of modern life, continues to inspire young artists today.
The current exhibition, (Mem)Bayang Maksud, runs until November.
For a more international collection of artworks, head to the 13th annual Malaysia Art Expo (AEM) from 11 to 13 October. Featuring more than 1,500 stunning artworks from 60 internationally reputable galleries, the exhibition has also commissioned French artist, Quentin Garel, to create a work-specific for AEM called Orang Utan.
There will also be a Japan Pavilion, art talks, and a cultural exchange initiative exhibiting works brought in by the embassies of Brazil, Croatia, Ecuador, Italy and Russia.
Previous expos have included works from art superstars like Picasso, Dali and Japan’s contemporary art provocateur, Murakami Takashi, so expect similarly high-quality art this year.
KLIAF extends into October
It’s not too late to catch some of the most exciting offerings from the annual DiverseCity of Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival (KLIAF), which has extended its normally September-long run into a second month.
Taksu – Spirit of Gamelan is the latest production from drum ensemble Hands Percussion which will take place at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) from 4 to 6 October. The show, which combines Chinese drums with Malay/Balinese gamelan, is a collaboration with Balinese gamelan master Wayan Sudirana and the Gamelan Yuganada group. Expect a dramatic feast for the senses.
Classic Malay theatre in an unusual setting is also on the cards, with a staging of Uda dan Dara at Padang Merbok, a large field in the centre of town more known for protest marches and rock music festivals.
The play will be presented to the public on the nights of 25 and 26 October. The best part is that it’s free!
Longest running creative arts festival returns
The Urbanscapes festival opens its doors for the 17th time from 16 to 24 November.
As always, international music stars will close the festival, and this year’s mouth-watering line-up includes Cuco, Sunset Rollercoaster, The Drums, and Boy Pablo, alongside a host of popular and up-and-coming local acts.
Early bird tickets are already sold out, but you can still purchase regular-priced tickets. Be quick!
Otherwise, choose from a tantalising menu of activities in the multi-venue festival which will extend throughout the city in a creative arts treasure hunt. Venues big and small, lavish and hidden will be taking part, with the heart on the festival centred on the Urbanscapes house, the art deco OCBC building which has now been converted into an event and exhibition space.
Expect music, art, films, performing arts, games, parties, workshops, talks, and much more, many of which are free and open to the public.