Malaysian artists expressing their views on the country’s socio-political climate through art is not something new – they challenge religion, race, and tend to undermine government officials/royals. There are many artworks in Malaysia that have been taken down and banned – some artists were even charged for sedition.
You would think in this era of Malaysia Baru, artists in Malaysia wouldn’t have to deal with this type of censorship anymore – yet here we are.
According to The Star, National Art Gallery (NAG) in Kuala Lumpur removed four artworks from acclaimed Malaysian contemporary artist Ahmad Fuad Osman’s solo exhibition entitled ‘At The End Of The Day Even Art Is Not Important’. Fuad became aware of the action after a complaint was made from a board member of NAG.
All four of his installations were officially taken down on 4 February, with blank spaces left on the walls. The four artworks are an untitled two-part 2002 work featuring ‘Missing’ poster paintings of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, an LED panel; a UV print on mirror titled ‘Dreaming Of Being A Somebody Afraid Of Being A Nobody (2019)’, an oil painting ‘Imitating The Mountain’ (2004); and an installation work ‘Mak Bapak Borek, Anak Cucu Cicit Pun Rintik’ (2016-2018).
Take a look here:
In an open letter released today on Fuad’s official Facebook page – he has requested that the entire exhibition be closed immediately (most likely as a big “f– you” towards NAG).
“All the works that the curator and I proposed to exhibit at the NAG were submitted for the museum’s consideration and feedback. The gallery agreed to all the works installed. So the decision by NAG to take down a number of my works is profoundly troubling,” says Fuad.
He continued by stating that, “This act of censorship – and there is no other word for it – is arbitrary, unjustified and abuse of institutional power. The NAG claims that it is censoring my work because a board member complained that certain works are obscene and too political. But this makes no sense. Contemporary art in Malaysia has always challenged conventions and it has consistently made political commentary.”
And that’s on what? Freedom of expression.
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