Collector's obsession a boon for Malaysian art


THEIR apartment looks more like an art museum. There are paintings and sculptures donning the walls and almost every corner. Even the carpets are judiciously picked to blend with the surroundings, replete with their own history. For discerning visitors, the works of art displayed are little masterpieces in their own right. For an art historian, the artists and sculptors whose works are displayed represent some of the finest in the country.

You can't fault them for their passion. Art collecting is not merely a hobby, it is an expensive vocation yet a rewarding one financially. For Farouk Khan and his wife Aliya, it is almost an obsession. They are in possession of probably the most comprehensive private collection of contemporary paintings. They have an ambitious plan -- to build a world-class gallery to exhibit the best Malaysian artists.

The couple are little known outside the art fraternity, but since 1995 when Singapore-born Farouk moved to Kuala Lumpur, they have been accumulating priceless works by local artists. Not unlike the pairs of Edward and Sylvia Hyde and Steve and Rosemary Wong, Farouk and his wife are the most tenacious art collectors in the country today. They have almost a thousand art works so far. Farouk is also in the process of publishing a book on contemporary Malaysian art.

They have displayed their collections before, most notably the one in Johor Baru, known as the "Iskandar Malaysia Contemporary Art Show" last year, or IM@AS 2009. It featured some of the most creative, audacious, complex and tantalising works in the country. For the couple, it was a showcase of more than 15 years' worth of effort, representing works through three decades. But there is more to it than just showcasing high-quality works. Some of these artists were Johor-born themselves.

It is an open secret, as revealed by Menteri Besar Datuk Ghani Othman in his note on the exhibition, that today's contemporary Malaysian art scene is dominated by Johor-born artists. He cited names like Yusof Ghani, Ahmad Zaki Anwar, Hamir Saib, Tan Chin Kuan, Shooshie Sulaiman, Eng Hwee Chu and Umi Baizurah Mahir. Other notable artists in the exhibition were Kaw Leong Kang, Anthony Chang, Rajinder Singh, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Fauzan Mustapha, Stephen Menon and Ivan Lam.

Farouk believes that Malaysian art is of a very high standard, in fact dominant in the region. The only flaw is that most Malaysians are not aware of it. The art realm is one that is confined to the aficionados , the connoisseurs and a handful of art historians and critics. He is right. Works of art represent the soul of a nation. It manifests our consciousness, curiosity, creativity and excellence.

Like literature and theatre, we need them as mirrors to society. Nation-building is as much about patriotism as it is about identity contestation. The arts represent the real "us" -- our values, world views and positions. While it is true that art can be the domain of the elite, but like literature, we can democratise it by educating and inculcating the interest among the public.

There are many art studios in Kuala Lumpur and other cities and towns initiated mostly by individuals. Outside the limelight, the art scene is very much alive and kicking. Exhibitions are being held almost every other day. It is not always easy to bring in the crowds, but the numbers are expanding exponentially with or without the help of the government or mainstream media.

Painters can live on their works, but certainly not all enjoy the pricing attached to the late Ibrahim Hussein or that of Latiff Mohiddin. Nevertheless, most painters are better off economically than many of the glamorous celebrities working in music and films.

Dewan Budaya, first issued in 1981, is a magazine published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) specialising in promoting culture and the arts. The art scene back then was exciting, to say the least. Dewan Budaya was a vehicle for artists like Ibrahim, Latiff, Mustapha Haji Ibrahim, Redza Piyadasa, Syed Ahmad Jamal, Sulaiman Isa, A. Ghafar Ibrahim and Siti Zainon Ismail, to name a few. Many more were discovered and promoted by the magazine. The debate on art and culture in the magazine which survives today is exhilarating. In its early years, the covers of Dewan Budaya were reproductions of contemporary paintings. The magazine helped define an era as much as another DBP publication, Dewan Sastera, defined literature of any period.

It was at an old mansion near Padang Merbok where the Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) complex now stands that the Anak Alam became the nest of some of Malaysia's finest artists -- Latiff started there, so too Ghafar, Siti Zainon and Mustapha. Later Yusof Gajah, Apai, Anuar Rashid and K. Tangaraju made their presence felt. Anuar is a gem among the Anak Alam "graduates". He was discovered in 1976 when one of his works was exhibited as part of the "Young Contemporaries" paintings at the National Art Gallery. He won many prizes over the years and today he is considered one of the greats in contemporary art. (Read about him in this column, "Starting afresh from the blackout", April 22, 2006). Farouk and Aliya are instrumental in making sure the notoriously talented Anuar is managed and taken care of. They have the best collection of Anuar's work.

Sadly, Anak Alam ceased to exist. The movement was fortunate to have the late Usman Awang and Ismail Zain as their patrons and protectors. Others were not as sympathetic. When the authorities demanded the mansion's return, many paintings were burned as a sign of protest. Learning from the experience, the late Rahimi Harun, an artist himself, took the initiative to buy locals' works and set up a studio at Pasar Seni

The Malaysian art scene is at best fractured, at worst ignored. But that does not mean it should be discounted. Owners of small private studios do not have the financial might to popularise their artists and collections. As IM@AS 2009 has proven, local painters need the media, corporate and government support and that of the public at large. And of course, Farouk and Aliya.

Art, Peace And The Global Village - Against Violence

Majlis Pembukaan Rasmi / Official Opening:
23 Jun 2009 / 23 June 2009

Jam 5.30 ptg / at 5.30 p.m

Dirasmikan Oleh / By


Exco Perancangan Bandar & Desa, Perumahan dan Kesenian

Exco Town & Country Planning, Housing and Arts

Bertempat / Vanue

Galeri Balai Seni Lukis Negeri Pulau Pinang

Sinopsis Pameran

Sempena mengingati mangsa peperangan dan penindasan kemanusiaan, Muzium & Balai Seni Lukis Negeri Pulau Pinang dengan kerjasama R A Fine Arts dengan bangganya mempersembahkan satu Pameran bertajuk “Seni, Damai dan Perkampungan Sejagat – Menentang Keganasan”

Malah, pameran ini akan memaparkan hasil-hasil seni artis-artis Malaysia seperti Amir Zainorin, Badruddin Syah Abdul Wahab, Haslin Ismail, Long Thien Shih, Maslin Md Ramly, Mohd Safwan Ahmad, Mustapha Haji Ibrahim, Rahmat Haron, Ramlan Abdullah, Samsudin Mohammad, Tan Sei Hon, Yeoh Lian Heng, Dr.Zakaria Ali Zazi dan Syed Mohd Bakar Syed Salim. Manakala pengkarya dari Indonesia terdiri daripada Bayu Widodo, Djunaidi Kenyut, Januri dan Kartika Affandi . Abdul Rahman Katanani dan Rouhaifa Qassim dari Palastine, Cazim Sarajlic dari Bosnia, Dayang Ampuan Siti Ramlah, Dayang Armachester Arsad, Pg. Timbang dan Zakaria Omar dari Brunei manakala S. Mohdir dari Singapura.

In conjunction with remembering war victims and humanity, Penang State Museum And Art Gallery with the cooperation of R A Fine Arts proudly presents an Art Exhibition entitled “Art, Peace and the Global Village – Against Violance ”.

In addition, the exhibition will feature the response of Malaysian artists. This includes National Artist Amir Zainorin, Badruddin Syah Abdul Wahab, Haslin Ismail, Long Thien Shih, Maslin Md Ramly, Mohd Safwan Ahmad, Mustapha Haji Ibrahim, Rahmat Haron, Ramlan Abdullah, Samsudin Mohammad, Tan Sei Hon, Yeoh Lian Heng, Dr. Zakaria Ali Syed Mohd Bakar Syed Salim and Zazi. Bayu Widodo, Djunaidi Kenyut, Januri and Kartika Affandi from Indonesia. Abdul Rahman Katanani and Rouhaifa Qassim from Palastine. Cazim Sarajlic from Bosnia. Dayang Ampuan Siti Ramlah, Dayang Armachester Arsad, Pg. Timbang and Zakaria Omar from Brunei and S. Mohdir from Singapore.

For general or press inquiries about this exhibition, please contact Penang State Museum & Art Gallery 04-2613144 or email to :



The Launching of Mustapa Haji Ibrahim's Poetry Book, Gemuruh Alam.

which will be launched by
Y. Bhg. Dato' A. Samad Said
National Laureate

Mustapa Haji Ibrahim was one of the artists who was directly involved in the formation of the 'Anak Alam' group, a seminal group of cutting-edge artists, poets, theater activists, dancers and various artistic personalities in the 70s.

and not forgetting these fine writers and musicians:

Mustapa Hj Ibrahim
Siti Zainon Ismail
Raja Ahmad Aminullah
Dr Iqbal
Chuah Guat Eng
Rahman Shaari
Nisah Haron

Date: Saturday, 7th June 2008
Time: 5pm
Venue: RA Fine Arts, 6 Jalan Aman off Jalan Tun Razak

Food and Drinks Provided. Admission Free.

MUSTAPA HAJI IBRAHIM Paintings 1968 - 2008

R A Fine Arts is proud to present a solo exhibition by Mustapa Haji Ibrahim, entitled "Mustapa Haji Ibrahim : Paintings 1968-2008 4th Solo Exhibition". For more than two decades Mustapa Haji Ibrahim has been out of the public eye. Therefore this exhibition which displays pictures spanning forty years re-connects the public with Mustapa Haji Ibrahim. In another way, the public meets Mustapa anew and for the first time. R A Fine Arts Gallery is proud to enlist the curatorial capabilities of T.K. Sabapathy in organizing this important fourth solo exhibition of Mustapa Haji Ibrahim. Sabapathy is a renowned
Arca Kabut Warna. Acrylic. 1983.101x101cm
 South East Asian art historian who is currently an adjunct associate professor in the School of Architecture in the National University of Singapore and a consultant lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Media in the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where he teaches Asian art history.

Mustapa Haji Ibrahim was one of the artists who was directly involved in the formation of Anak Alam group, a seminal group of cutting-edge artist, poets and artistic personalities in 1974. Unassuming and keeping a low profile, he is loyal to the modest ways and views held by the members of Anak Alam.

Transisi Tangan Hitam. Acrylic. 2006.75x69cm
Although linked with the Anak Alam group, but in actuality, Mustapa Haji Ibrahim's art activities had already started when he enrolled in Angkatan Pelukis Se-Malaysia (APS) at the Taman Budaya Studio, Jalan Ampang in the late 1960s.

However, as an artist who drew portraits and landscapes, this period became a bridge to his subsequent development. Inspired by nature and his social milieu, he became aware that art was not necessarily limited to the real world, but could also include the essence or the spirit of nature itself.

Subsequently, Mustapa Haji Ibrahim and a few friends got together and form Anak Alam in 1974. But unlike his peers in Anak Alam, such as Latiff Mohidin, who became widely recognised, Mustapa Haji Ibrahim remained largely in the shadows even though he has been painting consistently. Many feel this is because he has never been widely or appropriately exhibited.

Sihir Batin. Oil. 1973. 173 x 159cm
He was not wholly ignored however, as prominent writers such as Redza Piyadasa as well as Krishen Jit and several others had written on him in the 1970s. Around the same time, his poems were also published widely. He also exhibited his works in three solo exhibitions: The British Council in 1973, Anak Alam Studio in 1979 and the Equatorial Hotel in 1983.

Berahi Alam - Senseous Earth. Acrylic. 1984.40x61cm
Yang Berbahagia Dr. Mohamed Najib bin Ahmad Dawa, Director - General of National Art Gallery will launch "Mustapa Haji Ibrahim : Paintings 1968 –2008―4th Solo Exhibition" on 24 May 2008 (Saturday) at 5pm. The exhibition will be held from the 17 May to 7 June 2008 and will be open to the public. Admission is free. For more details, please do not hesitate to call 03 – 2161 7341 (Monday - Saturday, 11am till 6pm). Address: R A Fine Arts, No. 6, Jalan Aman, off Jalan Tun Razak, 55000 Kuala Lumpur.