The Star Malaysia - Star2
Adapting to a new landscape
The National art Gallery is slowly making progress in providing digital content and recovery programmes.
IT was a sad day for art lovers when the National Art Gallery (NAG) in Kuala Lumpur made the decision to cancel the highly anticipated Kuala Lumpur Biennale 2020 (KUL Biennale 2020) due to the coronavirus outbreak. This was meant to be the second edition of the large-scale international contemporary art programme organised by the NAG, initially scheduled for a six-month run from this September till February 2021.
Two months have passed since that announcement at the end of March.
As far as visitors to national art institutions and museums are concerned, these galleries nationwide are still closed.
“The decision to cancel KUL Biennale 2020 is a devastating one as we know how it will affect the art industry. When the announcement was made, many art lovers expressed their frustration at the cancellation. But the safety and health of all involved had to be the priority,” says Amerrudin Ahmad, NAG director general.
Like in its inaugural exhibition in 2017, KUL Biennale’s main exhibition was to be held at the NAG, with other showcases and activities to run concurrently at other venues around the city.
Without its headliner event this year, what has NAG up its sleeve now even as MCO restrictions are being lifted in stages?
“We are coming up with our New Normal Programme where we will target more artists to create and plan virtual exhibitions and art marketing. At the same time, we are encouraging them to be part of NAG Artist Membership and have their data with us as well as the Tourism, Arts and Culture ministry (MOTAC), so we can offer assistance when they need it,” says Amerrudin.
On May 1, NAG also announced its new chairman Datuk Tom Abang Saufi, one of Malaysia’s most recognisable names in fashion, who will oversee the national gallery’s programmes and direction post-mco.
The NAG has set some plans in motion, in particular online platforms for the art ecosystem to help ease it into the new art landscape after the pandemic.
Amerrudin shares that its Gogallery (gogallery.my) initiative, a free digital platform for all creatives, art lovers and the Malaysian art industry to connect, share, sell and buy art, is part of its “new normal” socio-economic growth component of the NAG.
“Gogallery.my strives to resuscitate art practices in Malaysia and hopes to help it attain a global presence in the pandemic-hit art world. At its core, it aims to present virtual alternatives to the creative economy as well as to provide for capacity building among practitioners, including art entrepreneurs,” he says.
Gogallery was recently given a facelift, in light of the NAG’S commitment to lend a helping hand to artists and other industry players during this challenging period.
The website compiles information on arts-related events around town, offers access to virtual art exhibitions, workshops and online tutorials and videos, and articles on the arts.
To date, over 70 galleries and 350 artists have registered.
The worldwide lockdowns due to the outbreak have made many people rethink how they live their lives and how they work.
As for what lessons the art industry can take away from this, Amerrudin notes that digitalisation efforts are accelerating all over the world and NAG is determined to adopt this too.
“It is certainly a new challenge for artists and art practitioners to take on a new role in art making and promotion, sharing their artworks online and hosting online exhibitions to gain more audience during this time,” he says.
Since the MCO started in March, NAG has been busy behind the scenes with a few projects, including ARTPA Khabar, a series of talks and sharing sessions by NAG curators with artists on all things art-related, plus presentations on its exhibitions, collection, products and other programmes.
An ongoing series of video tutorials by Johor-born cartoonist and illustrator Adeputra Masri was also launched last month (April).
Expect to see more content for children through its Edu Diary programme that aims to nurture a love and appreciation for art through fun activities for children.
When galleries are allowed to open to the public again, Amerrudin maintains that safety precautions will be a priority at NAG.
“We will follow the rules and regulations set by the government and abide by post-covid-19 SOP. This will help get us back on track for our visitors and tourism goals,” he says.
In the meantime, all new digital content can be viewed on NAG’S social media accounts.