Minut Init Art Social
A Social Space for All Things Art
A few years ago, we named Minut Init — a then fledgling art gallery — as ‘Best Art Venue’. Since then, the gallery has expanded itself both literally and figuratively to accommodate an array of events that encompass all forms of art — be it music, fashion, or poetry, to name a few. The gallery has recently expanded to a second floor — just below the gallery — where people are welcomed to lounge around with friends or recently acquainted strangers.
There is also a balcony — or as we like to call it, the Red Chamber — so smokers have a space to get in a puff or two in a separate space without having the fumes disrupting anyone else. A bar has been opened as well, and soon the owners plan to build a kitchen to serve snacks for the “in-between times.” One of the attractive features of the new space is the different neon lights that bring a certain aesthetic and mood to the space; the colours of which can be adapted to suit any function held there.
Minut Init is a non-conventional space where diverse forms of art can have a chance to flourish, where small and established artists commingle. Also, just taking a look at the various events that had been organised before — from a fashion preview by LAH’LAH’LAND, to an indie electronic gig with Menikmati and Orang, to a marathon screening of the Star Wars movies — it is definitely a place where the owners want to foster a sense of inclusion among everyone, to extend beyond the perceived niche audience that art galleries are often expected to attract. Everyone is invited here.
Minut Init Art Social is located at 29A & 29B Jalan SS 21/37, Uptown Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Opening hours are from 10am—1am.
T: 03 7499 5895
Dali + James + Jon + Ikmal
Dali and James are both artists who founded Minut Init along with their friend Jon, who deals with the finances and back-end operations, in November 2010. They were then joined by Ikmal, Quek, and long-time gallery assistant Abraham. Together, they continue to diversify the underground art gallery into a space where art and social events meet.
Jon and Ikmal — you guys come from different fields of work — what got you into this creative venture?
Jon I guess this is different from what I do at work; this is my art…
Dali … He’s just bored. He just wants to feel cool, that’s why he joined.
D If not he’s gonna be super lame and be the same. He can go out and say, “I own a gallery, hey, what’s up?”
I The gallery has evolved, everything has changed. After five years, this is the establishment now. We are from different backgrounds, but I believe we all—including Jon—have a passion in art as a whole, be it music, fashion… We get together as much as we can to determine the direction of the gallery.
Why did you guys decide to expand to another floor?
J Because it was not big enough!
D A lot of people came in [and] they wanted to smoke but couldn’t, they had to go out. We built a smoking area there at the balcony, as it turns out people like hanging out there. It’s good for [non-smokers] as well, it won’t be stuffy, and the paintings won’t smell. And before with other exhibitions, people wanted to hang out but we did not have anything to offer, so that’s why we made our own bar, and that’s where the name Art Social came out from — we wanted people to be social in terms of art. They can come and drink with us.
Why did you all decide to open Minut Init in Uptown? Because this area is known more for its eateries and offices (such as ours)…
D Back in the day in 1998, Uptown was the place for hipsters. It had all the bundle shops, hip guys, well-known people in the underground scene would makan-makan here after clubbing. There were a lot of gigs in pubs, so I’m trying to bring that back, and I’m doing art, so I want to promote art as well. [Back then when we opened], Publika wasn’t finished so we were doing it [here], but when Publika opened, everyone went there.
On the topic of competition, the gallery is opened for five years now, how do you try to keep up with the times?
D We don’t worry about competition so much, I think the only competition we have is just with Publika.
But why Publika? Like, just in terms of scale, Publika is a large establishment, whereas Minut Init is more indie.
D Why not? Why not that we have the same target [market] as them?
J I think what we’re trying to say is that we want to have more places like this here, instead of all in one mall.
D I think it’s about people’s [perception]; when they go to Publika, they can feel the art scene there because there’s someone paying someone to build this big-ass shit (art installations). But when people come here, they will say, “I can do this.” Some people come here and would give various comments like “You can do better with the sound system,” [or] “You can have lower prices for drinks.” FINDARS and Kedai are doing it and that’s great. We are constantly diversifying because we studied in Melbourne and it’s culturally combined, all rojak but it doesn’t matter, we don’t care who you are. That’s also why we have different types of genres and ages [of people] who come here. I’m not pushing you to be artsy, just come as yourself.
James Ly People will fear when they don’t know about something. You should feel curious instead of fear. Like, they don’t know how to act in this type of crowd, but actually people just don’t know how to act, they just go with the flow.
Jon, did you feel like you stuck out like a sore thumb among James and Dali?
J No, we met in Melbourne… Are you judging me from what I’m wearing (office attire)? If I went back to change, you’d probably think that I was the artsy one (laughs)! But it’s also what we’re trying to do—breaking down stereotypes.
JL This is not a commercial gallery, so we create our own rules. This is also contributing to modern culture in Malaysia, you don’t need to protect your heritage in a traditional way, you can evolve your heritage. It’s also a democracy as well.
How did you manage to sustain the business over the years?
D Hustling-lah. When we sell a painting for an exhibition, we could rest for three months. But sometimes when we pump money into an exhibition and it doesn’t turn out well… So, it’s just normal, every business is like this.
J But, I think now we’re ready to take it to the next level, that’s why we did the expansion.
D We’re trying to push events in different states and previously, we did something with artists outside of Malaysia called Circle Jerks—a post-internet thing. The American artists who participated were based in Shanghai and in turned out they have the same space as us, so we’re probably going to have a collaboration. We don’t know how yet, maybe we’re gonna get some grants. But here, we’re still going to continue with the music events, art events, poetry, movies—anything in terms of art. Our approach is to get more chicks as well, that’s why we got Sophia Kamal…
Oh. Do you guys get more guys coming in? Was it not girl-friendly before?
D I mean, no… They were girls before…
I But generally, it’s easy to get guys anywhere. Like you said, you won’t go to a party alone, unless you have a friend. You won’t go alone and have a beer and talk to the guy next to you.
D Yeah, we want all the soloists to come and rock on. Like in the UK or whatever, you can just go out alone and order a drink—that’s what we want here.
No, you guys don’t understand how it’s like for a girl. You don’t want to be crept on by dudes.
D It’s true, it’s true.
I But it’s built up by this culture here, you know? “Oh, dudes are like that.”
JL But, generally guys are like that.
JL What we’re trying to say is, when you come here, you can be safe. Like, if you go to clubs, you’d get these sorts of guys; if you come here, you’d get guys who are different — maybe more intellectuals, more artsy types.