My 2005 article in relation to Malaysia's leaky national art gallery has been quoted in this week's Kakiseni feature. It makes me happy to know that it is still remembered.
Credit is due to the then-editor Pang who saw it fit to publish my enraged letter wherein I ranted about the disgusting conditions of the gallery.
Reading it again, with the encouraging reader comments, has made me reflect on what's happened since then.
Let's see... Last year, they discovered that there was a termite infestation in the parquet floors, so they closed down the gallery for 10 months for a much-needed refurbishment. The sculptures were even aired out on the lawns because it was not safe for them indoors! When Hoy Cheong told me that, I wanted to cry.
Then, in this year's January issue, Off The Edge published a frank interview with art collector Pakhruddin Sulaiman who was very damning about the NAG.
The NAG opened its doors again in time for Merdeka, and The Star ended its report with this comment, " Now that the gallery is without a director – Dr Saharudin Ismail recently left the position – there is a chance again to appoint someone who knows about art." (Ouch! But - but - this guy's a "doctor" lah, how can dunno about art right...)
Meanwhile, DIY events like notthatbalai and LAMU keep happening only as a result of sheer determination, muhibbah spirit and passion. To quote my favourite fighting fish:
I sincerely believe that the Malaysian art scene has become stronger and more self-sufficient now that we realize that Balai is utterly incompetent. It has been MIA for close to a year - and you know what, it hasn't been missed. Galleries, collectors, artists, institutions and collectives have forged ahead, having shows left, right and center, and some damn good ones at that. I always intone that we get the government we deserve, but in this case, I maintain (with few reservations) that Balai doesn't deserve the artists the nation has. This Merdeka, it has embarrassed itself beyond redemption by its discreditable showing.
I officially declare Balai-bashing out-of-vogue. It just isn't worth the 2 seconds anymore. We are doing just fine without it.
For the first time, without irony, Malaysia boleh lah!