Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Can You Live On Art Alone?

Came across this news some time back. It was to highlight the success of a local Malaysian Chinese artist - a digital artist or photographer if you like, but nevertheless the artist.

Read on:

Malaysian’s work of art fetches RM117,000 at Christie’s

KUALA LUMPUR: A digital art piece called Huminodun by Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann was sold for more than RM100,000 at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong on Saturday.

The work is one of Yee’s “Kinabalu series” which explores the eroded spiritual power of a Kadazandusun woman and her shifting relationship to her land.

Huminodun is based on the Kadazandusun creation story where a woman created the earth and padi and thus created her community.

Yee said she was shocked to hear about her piece being sold for US$38,000 (RM117,000).

This is the picture that made heads turn.

Stories like this are few and far in between.

How many ever made it to international acclaim? Is Malaysia suffering from such a artistic drought that every once in five or ten years someone makes it big out there?

Do we have good Malaysian artists for that matter?

The often exchanged advice to beginning artists is this: If you want to make it, go overseas. That used to be true. Not anymore, I think. Air travel and information exchange have never been easier and I think there is a fair share of foreign conglomerates that are based in Malaysia who have been contributors to art in their homeland. I have however yet to know of any that contributes to local art scene. Why this is so is pretty obvious.

If you have been following the art scene, you would not be amazed. Or surprised. If you have been talking to artists, especially the talented and struggling ones, you will know that a handful few would compete fiercely for the little that goes around. And what have the people appointed to take charge of the arts scene in Malaysia?

I have been proposing for a proper art marts in Kuala Lumpur since the demise of the Laman Seni. Is it any wonder? Here, we have a good concept that is drawing crowd way back in 2006-07.

Despite the lack of promotions, the art mart was only beginning to draw crowd. And wham, one day, it ended out of the blue - it was shifted to Putrajaya.

The intention was good - but ill planned. Not many art enthusiasts can make the 40km journey south of the capital. Not many tourists know where it was although many would have read up about the location of Kuala Lumpur's galleries, and the National Art Gallery, and could easily take a bus, cab or even walk there. And what happened was the demise - already predicted by the artists who were invited to showcase their art at the Zouk. Unfortunately, none wanted to offend the authorities and kept quiet.

Today, the motley crew of artists who used to take part in the once-a-month event are spread all over the Klang Valley. Some struggling to make ends meet, others having switched to art-related events which they could use their skill.

Looking back, one wonders if an artist can truly call himself a fulltime artist and live on his/her artistic creations alone. With rising prices, the future doesn't look too good. And I sympathise with them...

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