1 April 2022
With the country’s borders now open, it’s time to welcome travellers from near and far.
If you are looking to draw up a holiday itinerary that is fun for the whole family, and one that also includes Malaysian art, culture and history, make sure to add these museums and art galleries in Kuala Lumpur on your list.
A new website for Muzium Negara was launched recently for visitors to plan their visit ahead.
What can you expect? Tour the museum’s four galleries for a walk through Malaysian history, starting with early human civilisations in the Pre-history section, where a replica of Perak Man, the oldest human skeleton in South-East Asia, stands; through to the Malaysia Today Gallery, which highlights the country’s stories from pre-Independence to current day achievements.
The Malay Kingdoms Gallery highlights the rise of the Melaka Empire in the 15th century, while the Colonial Era Gallery charts its fall in 1511 and subsequent years of foreign influence from the Dutch, British and the Japanese.
Muzium Negara has an outdoor exhibition where a variety of artefacts, ranging from vehicles, natural and man-made structures, weapons and sculptures, are displayed at its compound.
Another attraction of the museum is an original-scale Terengganu timbre palace known as Istana Satu, while the Orang Asli Crafts Museum nearby offers visitors a glimpse of the cultures of indigenous communities in Malaysia.
Ticketed entry to Muzium Negara and related galleries.
For regional art connoisseurs, the question might be: does Malaysia have an equivalent of, say, Museum MACAN (Indonesia) or Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum (Thailand)? Yes, it does – if not in blockbuster shows, but content with depth.
Focusing on modern and contemporary art, Ilham Gallery in KL has set a new standard for art exhibitions in Malaysia as it strives to anchor its presentation and discussion within a regional and global context.
Its exhibitions, housed on Level 3 and 5 of Menara Ilham, are complemented by public programmes such as curator’s tours, workshops, talks and performances, as well as events for children that have, in the past, included art science workshops, street theatre and storytelling sessions.
The gallery has a gift shop – one of the best in Malaysia – on Level 5 that showcases a diverse range of gifts and souvenirs sourced from artists, designers, artisans and literary communities from all over the country.
Two exhibitions are currently showing at Ilham Gallery: Kok Yew Puah’s Portrait Of A Malaysian Artist and Ahmad Fuad Osman’s Skola Gambar Enrique de Malacca.
As an Instagram bonus, don’t miss out on Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s public sculpture Divina Proportione, located outside the gallery building. It was Ai’s first permanent public sculptural work in South-East Asia.
ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM MALAYSIA
In 2020, the Islamic Arts Museum (IAMM) had to postpone its Inspired By The East: How The Islamic World Influenced Western Art blockbuster exhibition in Kuala Lumpur because of the pandemic. Art lovers are still hoping for news about that major Orientalism show, which was a collaboration between IAMM and the British Museum.
IAMM still has enough on the cards to impress visitors. You’ll need to set aside a fair amount of time to walk through the 12 permanent galleries, which include the architecture, jewellery, textile, coin and seal, arms and armour, ceramics and metalwork galleries. Illustrating the wide influence of the Islamic civilisation, there are also galleries dedicated to art and artefacts in India, China and the Malay world.
The museum shop located on the ground floor offers a selection of Islamic crafts and artefacts from around the world, books that revolve around art and the Islamic world and a product line developed exclusively by IAMM.
Currently on display at the Open Space Gallery is Al-Haramayn: Hejaz During The Ottoman Period. Photographs From The Archives Of Yildiz Palace And Fakhreddin Pasha, a collaboration between IAMM and the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA).
Ticketed entry to IAMM.
NATIONAL TEXTILE MUSEUM
With textile art witnessing a revival during the pandemic, the National Textile Museum is the perfect stop if you want a quick history lesson about Malaysian art, fashion and craft.
What can you expect? Four permanent galleries dedicated to the art of textiles. This is a small but colourful museum with selected heritage collections such as songket (hand-woven in silk or cotton, and intricately patterned with gold or silver thread), pua kumbu (a traditional patterned multi-coloured ceremonial cotton cloth used by the Iban in Sarawak), telepuk (a fine cotton or silk cloth with imprinted floral motifs using gold leaf or dust) and tekatan (gold embroidery on velvet), to name a few.
Besides textiles, the Ratna Sari Gallery exhibits accessories, jewellery and and other personal adornments of different ethnic groups in Malaysia. Made of gold, silver, copper, beads and plants, these are pieces that are worn on various parts of the body, from head to toe.
Talks, fashion showcases and other activities are usually held at the Saindera temporary gallery.
Ticket entry to the National Textile Museum.
NATIONAL ART GALLERY
The National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur is scheduled to open its doors to the public in May, after being closed for major roof repair and renovation since August 2020.
Among the exhibitions that will mark its reopening is NUSA which will feature close to 400 selected artworks from the National Collection, and the Singles exhibition, which will showcase some of today’s leading Malaysian contemporary artists.
Through a collaboration with the National Museum of Australia and Mosster Studio, the Walking Through A Songline exhibition, will make a tour stop at the National Art Gallery. This is a digital experience that pays tribute to Aboriginal Australians and explores how an entire continent has been mapped for, and by, its people over millennia. This interactive exhibition is based on part of the National Museum of Australia’s internationally-acclaimed exhibition Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters.
The National Art Gallery’s Art Hospital – its National Art Repository and Conservation Centre – will also be starting operations this year. The Chow Kit Heritage House, known as ‘Rumah Degil’, is also an attraction which has found a permanent home on the National Art Gallery grounds.
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