In the world of art, a biennale is a major occurrence. Whether you compare it to a Grand Slam in tennis, a Major in golf, or the World Cup in football, a biennale weighs in as a country’s most prestigious art event. Its aim is to leave a mark on the hearts, minds and souls of those around it, delving deep into artistic scenes and offering a holistic showcase of the status quo.
This month, Malaysia joined the ranks of countries around the world hosting their own such event, as the KL Biennale kicked off after months of hype. The mammoth undertaking is spearheaded by the National Art Gallery (also the main venue) and draws together 100 artists from 12 countries, as well as a list of supporting sites including Galeri Prima, The National Library, Galeri UPM at Universiti Putra Malaysia and Galeri Petronas.
The inaugural edition of the KL Biennale differs considerably to other biennales in that its theme – Alami Belas or Be Loved – is compassionate in nature and meant to instil positive values such as honesty, tolerance and solidarity. In contrast, themes for biennales are more often than not provocative, revolving around subjects such as ethnic conflict, politics, or even war, aimed at providing a shock experience that stays ingrained in the memory.
The theme will be distilled into five main components reflected across exhibitions part of the Biennale: love for nature or belas alam, love for heritage or belas warisan, love for people or belas insan, love for animals or belas haiwan and love for icons or belasungkawa.
Parallel exhibitions running in locations such as SGM Grand Culture Centre, Ilham Gallery, Mytown Shopping Centre, Galeri Seni Tuanku Zahirah Uitm and Galeri Petronas will feature works by some of the country’s leading contemporary artists. A literal who’s who in the Malaysian arts scene with luminaries such as Bibi Chew, Ibrahim Hussein, Jaafar Taib and Awang Damit Ahamd take part.
Running side-by-side these exhibitions are also a diverse mix of talks, workshops, performances and support activities that involve students, artists, activists and curators from across the board.
There’s plenty of time to absorb what the KL Biennale has to offer as it runs until March 2018. With so much going on, you might just need that amount of time to really appreciate what it has to offer.
WHERE National Arts Gallery and participating sites around KL
WHEN Ongoing until March 2018
TEL 03 4026 7000artgallery.gov.my/KLBiennale.