Thursday, July 26, 2007

National Art Gallery - To reopen on July 30

Yes, finally, after close to 10 months being closed, the National Art Gallery will be reopened this month.

This is a long-awaited moment, especially for artists, after the place was closed for massive renovations - one of which was due to termite attacks on the floorboards and leaky roofing. I still recall the last day of the Putrajaya Landscape Watercolour exhibition. One end of the main gallery was leaky and water was dripping from the ceiling and watercolour paintings were several feet away from it. Hopefully when it reopens, the saga of the leaky roofs will end there - after having caused so much embarrassment to the ministries involved until one minister had to blame the weather for all the leaks.

This is, if I am not mistaken, the second massive facelift for the gallery after it moved from opposite the Railway Station. This new site is a much more conducive to a gallery of national repute. Surrounding the gallery are the sprawling Lake Titiwangsa, the majestic National Theatre, the National Library and just several kilometres away from KLCC. It is also well serviced by a bus route and the compound is well-shaded.

I don't know if the ministry in charge will bring back the monthly Craft Mart or Laman Seni which had been quite successful since its introduction about two years ago until the gallery was closed end last year. This was shifted to Putrajaya, near Souq, an impractical move that has now reduced the number of artists participating to just a handful. This is understood since Putrajaya is not exactly within the tourist belt and what are we promoting the mart to if not foreign and domestic tourists, as well as weekenders who can arrive at the venue within 30 minutes' journey.

The grounds around the gallery is stil under-utilised and is perfect for weeken art events. I remember the time when the gallery just moved from the Majestic Hotel (its former home) opposite Railway Station. The crowd to the gallery was sparse and remained so several years until the managers introduced the once-a-monthly Laman Seni. The gallery was then under the able leadership of Wairah Marzuki, if I am not mistaken.

The event became quite a hit with the people, especially locals, but suffered because there was a visible lack of focus. Later it became more like a day pasar malam until it was scrapped for the renovation work.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that with the renovation work complete and the gallery restored to his former glory, efforts would be made to draw art lovers to it - this being not only confined to craft but also visual art such as acrylic, oil and watercolour paintings. For without interesting and related activities, you will have an ivory tower that draw no visitor.

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