The Official Opening: The Masters Of Myanmar Art Exhibition

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Salam Sejahtera.

Beta bersyukur ke hadrat ILAHI kerana dengan izin dan rahmat dari Nya juga Beta dan Raja Permaisuri dapat berangkat ke pameran “Masters of Myanmar Art” pada petang ini.

Honoured Guests, Art Aficionados, Ladies and Gentlemen

2. Firstly, I must congratulate Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan and his fellow art lovers, both from Myanmar and Malaysia, for initiating and organising this exhibition of Myanmar’s leading artists. I would also like to record my appreciation for having been asked to declare this exhibition open as it allows me the opportunity to view and appreciate the works of these fine artists.

3. After decades of being a closed society, and amidst the crippling sanctions, the recent opening up of Myanmar has also seen its art scene flourish. Although still not as developed as perhaps the contemporary art scenes of other South East Asian countries or even the greater Asia, the works of some of Myanmar’s top artists like Min Wae Aung, Kyee Min Saw and Khin Zaw Latt are highly sought after.

4. As I understand, for decades, sanctions kept tourism to a trickle and Myanmar was run on cash, not credit. Expensive paintings rarely sold because the few tourists who visited the country never carried much cash. That kept a lid on prices. And selling art was anything but simple.

5. But as Myanmar opened up, and when sanctions were removed, its art has emerged from the shadows and today, gallery owners from across the world are already scouting for talent.

6. It was the same in post-sanctions Vietnam. When the United States lifted sanctions on Vietnam in 1994, paintings sold for multiple times more than when sanctions were in place.

7. Prices have already started to rise in Myanmar, I am told, and perhaps, it is still not too late to acquire the works of some of the finer artists.

Ladies and Gentlemen

8. In Malaysia, in recent years, the local art scene has also developed quite significantly. Art auctions are now held quite regularly and there are many more galleries and art exhibitions that offer a lot more artworks for collectors to acquire.

9. Today, distinguished artists in Malaysia like Latif Mohidin, Yusof Ghani, Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Jolly Koh, Chang Fee Ming, Khalil Ibrahim and Chong Siew Ying can earn a decent income compared to the early years of our nationhood when our first batch of artists returned from their training abroad and embarked on their careers as professional artists. I know many of us here wish that we could be like the Zain Azaharis of that time, having a keen eye for art, and buying art which today are priceless for their rarity and exquisiteness.

10. In tandem with the rise in collecting art and its appreciation, the art scene has also become increasingly more sophisticated with more employment opportunities for art curators, conservators, writers, catalogue designers and so on.

11. There is also more scope for professionals and entrepreneurs to be involved in logistics, publishing and insurance as the art fairs in the Asian region grow in size and value. Artists themselves benefit from such regional and international exposure of their work. These developments in the art scene are positive because, as in all great civilisations, a greater appreciation of art and culture contributes to a country’s aspiration to be a developed and civilised society. It gives a nation soul and depth.

12. And while Malaysia has a relatively active, knowledgeable and vibrant art community, we should also look beyond our shores to learn how others engage in art, despite hardships or obstacles. Art has always been an effective mode of political and social expression and history has shown that many artists have paid a heavy price for daring to stand up to injustice. I understand that even in Myanmar, today, political art is flourishing and is contributing to societal changes.

13. Art also stimulates our senses and encourages us to think and reflect beyond what we see in front of us. Each country’s art invariably feature distinct characteristics that tell us something about the hopes and aspirations of the artist and the nation. Great art reflects and reveals elements that transcend time, space and physical boundaries.

14. Within the diverse Southeast Asian region, there are many aspects of the art and culture of our neighbours that we can learn from and appreciate.

15. The development of Myanmar art bears some similarities to ours, in terms of British Colonial influences. As I understand it, the watercolour and oil media as well Impressionism and Realism are still dominant features in Myanmar art.

16. At this juncture, I would like to congratulate the Myanmar artists whose works must have sufficiently impressed the organisers, including the Edge Galerie and its chairman Datuk Tong Kooi Ong, enough for them to take a personal interest in promoting Myanmar art in Malaysia.

17. I also sincerely hope that other corporate leaders would also adopt a more active role in promoting art especially fine art here.

18. Dengan lafaz Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim, Beta sukacita merasmikan pameran Masters of Myanmar Art.

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