Contemporary art in Kuala Lumpur

By Lara Dunston

I RECENTLY saw one of the finest exhibitions of contemporary art I’ve ever seen – in a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall of all places.

The exhibition of Malaysian figurative art called ‘Figure Out’ from the Petronas Art Collection – on show until November – is at Galeri Petronas in the sleek Suria KLCC shopping mall at the base of Kuala Lumpur’s glimmering twin towers.

Suria KLCC. Pic: Phalinn, Flickr.

Suria KLCC. Pic: Phalinn, Flickr.

The exhibition of 64 works by some of Malaysia’s most significant artists was curated to mark the 55th year of the country’s independence, and includes works featured by Malaysian, foreign and expat artists, including Datuk Chuah Thean Teng, Simon Soon, Zulkifli Yusoff, and Anurendra Jegadeva, organized around the themes of identity, work, leisure and politics, and covering everything from photography to collages.

After an hour strolling through the show I not only felt I had a better understanding of Malaysia’s recent history, from the shaky period post-British rule through to the more stable and prosperous recent decades, I felt as if I’d travelled through places as much as time, with the gamut of scenes depicted, from everything village life to farming in rural idylls.

I also gained a sense of the nation’s contemporary art scene – in just one hour, and, somewhat surprisingly, in a shopping mall. What’s wonderful about the location is that even if you’re not an art buff, you could spend as little as half an hour getting a good dose of Malaysian culture.

Galeri Petronas. Pic: Chinnian, Flickr.

Galeri Petronas. Pic: Chinnian, Flickr.

Here are some of my other favourite art spaces in KL:

Wei-Ling Gallery
8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields,
Kuala Lumpur’s best contemporary art gallery in my view.

National Art Gallery
2 Jalan Temerloh, Titiwangsa,
Brilliant, but a bit of a trek to get here; cab it.

MAP @ Publika Level
Block A5, Dutamas, 1 Jalan Dutamas,
Another excellent space, but tricky to find so take a taxi.

The Annexe Gallery
Central Market Annexe, 10 Jalan Hang Kasturi,
Another good spot if you’re not into art – pop in after shopping.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website


About the author…

Lara Dunston
Australian-born, Dubai-based travel writer Lara Dunston and her photographer husband Terence Carter have been living out of their suitcases since 2006, bouncing around the planet on assignment for publications from National Geographic Traveller in the USA to The Independent in the UK. The couple also have a popular travel blog Grantourismo, where they blog about slow and sustainable travel, local travel, and experiential travel.