Malaysian art : The under-side of the art market

Victor Chin, Pulau Perhentian No 38, 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 81x67cm

Victor Chin, Pulau Perhentian, No8, 2003, Acrylic on canvas, 81x67cm

Letter to the Editor, StarMag.

In Andrew Sia’s splendid review, ‘Whither Malaysian art?’, StarMag, Sunday 23 November, 2008, presented us with a wide selection of opinions about the state of art and the art market. However there is the under side of the story which might add to your readers understanding on this issue.

What we would like to know as in the case of artist Jailani’s painting ‘Tribute to Latiff Mohiddin’, (which sold for about RM200,000) is, who put up his painting for sale at the Christie’s auction? What if this sale was an inside job by a profiteering cartel, where one party puts it up for auction and members of that group buy it up, just to push up the price and hence the profit margin, if they happen to have a monopoly of the artist’s works?

It is also vital to know which gallery and the people involved in dealing with the works of Jailani, Yee I-Lann, Nadiah Bamadhaj, Zakii Anwar and Cheng Fee Ming? Why it is that it is always the same few artists’ works from the same few merchants that are popping up at these sales? Why is the other artists’ works, just as good as any, not in the picture when it comes to promoting Malaysian art here and elsewhere?

The auction houses will not reveal the details of the sellers and buyers, but they will profit from both the sellers and the buyers, and this is the standard business practice everywhere. The secrecy and nontransparent methods such as it is, is in part, what that has lead to the present world wide financial crush, we are experiencing now.

What sort of artists will emerge from this present system dominated by finance, unfettered by any government or professional regulations?

How will the creative minds operate in an increasingly close market in the hands of a few self appointed profit minded ‘gate keepers’ of Malaysian art?

What if there are moves to improve the art production and the market place, with less self interest but more transparency, and with fair incentives to all parties involved with the aim of serving not just Malaysian art but all Malaysians?

Bowled Over

Citi Hadijah, 25, from Johore, is one of the many tenpin bowlers competing for a medal in the 14th Paralympics in Kuala Lumpur (3 to 9 May). She is slow but she can sure swing the bowling ball over the pins. She has a personal style of holding the ball right up to her face, pause in concentration, before launching it.

The oldest bowler, Amaran B Bohri, 61, is from Kampong Paya Mebi, near Kuching, Sarawak. He is a veteran to this sport; he has won 3 gold medals and several other trophies, in individual and team events.

Amaran’s leg and back injuries were caused by an accident in his work place in 1995. That has not stop him from a happy family life and sports. He has six children and 20 grand children. Bowling is his favorite game.

Maizirah, 46, from Perak, is a first time bowler and she only started practicing two weeks before the games. She had just five bowling sessions at the Ipoh Parade Bowling Club before coming to this meet. She is a natural at the game and plays with a great deal of fun and enthusiasm.

She had a motor bike accident two weeks after her wedding and lost her right leg. At home she uses a pair of shoulder crutches to move about but she had to borrow a wheelchair to come to this venue. What she wishes for is a wheelchair so she can improve her mobility at home and at her sporting meets.

Maizirah’s contact no: 017 584 2639, (Please call her if you wish to donate a wheelchair).

A Star Swimmer

Fraidden Dewan doing the butterfly

Fraidden Dewan showing his sign after the event

Sarawak swimming team

Fraidden Dewan, 22, is an Iban, a Sea Dayak from Sarawak’s 20 indigenous groups.

He is the star swimmer of the Sarawak team that is in Kuala Lumpur for the

14th paralimpiad games, 3 to 9 May.

Eight years ago, when he was helping his father cut down a tree, in his village,

Mukah, near Sibu, he slipped on wet grounds while the tree was crushing down.

The tree fell on his lower left leg and crushed it. It had to be amputated.

He only took up swimming as a sport for the disabled in 2002 and since then

he has been selected to be part of the national team. He is in individual as well

as team events and he is here to show his swimming skills. Catch him and his

team mates in action at the Bukit Jalil sport complex today.

One of his problem outside the swimming pool is the difficulty of getting a

job in his town or near by Kuching. He is now a father of a two year old son

and has a young family to support.

At the moment he lives his family and his father is an odd job worker and the

family income is not predictable. What he wished for, at the moment, is to get

some professional training and to get a good job and to continue swimming and

may take part in the Olympics, in the future.

Last photo: from the left, Fraidden, Stanley, Zam, Zul Amirul