Expert Tips On Starting Your Own Malaysian Art Collection
To say that the AFK Collection is impressive could be an understatement. Started by Aliya and Farouk Khan over 25 years ago, the collection has grown into one of the largest private collections of contemporary Malaysian art in the world. Their daughter, Leila Khan, now manages the collection and is as passionate about local art. She speaks to Tatler exclusively about starting an art collection of Malaysian artists.
Where’s a good place to start?
I think the best way to start is to go to shows and learn. See what young artists are up to but to also understand the history of the art scene and learn about the mid-career and older artists and their practice. That way, one is able to make an informed decision. Reading and watching art documentaries to understand what is happening on a historical and international level is also really helpful. The more knowledge one has, and the more you know what you like, the better placed you are to collect.
In your opinion, who are the most collectible local artists.
Defining artists as the country’s ‘most collectible’ is tricky. Instead, I'm going to provide a shortlist of artists whose artworks are currently capturing my imagination. I feel that these artists all make work that speak to everyone because of their stunning aesthetics and relatable concepts—plus they all fit into the way we live our lives in Malaysia, conscious of our heritage, yet in a very cosmopolitan manner.
Below, Khan elaborates on the artists to watch and why.
"Consistenlty impressive are Ahmad Fuad Osman and Hamir Soib. Today, they are considered amongst the most important artists in Malaysia, having received local and international critical and commercial success. Their works often set trends both in terms of the kind of art made as well as pricing benchmarks.
Fuad is an amazing multidisciplinary artist whose deep commentaries provide new insights and enlighten me. He has excelled across genres - paintings, installations, video, and sculptures. Hamir is the undisputed master of the supersize canvas, producing breathtaking surrealist paintings that always stand out. His skill—from conceptualisation and execution to handling of different mediums—evokes so much emotion and people are left standing in awe. He truly is one of the leading painters of our time."
"They are collected by serious art collectors. Their works are hard to come by and usually go to their immediate collector base before they hit the market. Their prices are in the high six figure for contemporary artists at the moment."
The Malaysian Frida Kahlo
"Thinking of Surrealism, I have to mention Eng Hwee Chu. Described as the Malaysian Frieda Kahlo, she consistently produces these haunting paintings that depict what she deems her true self. Full of icons and images, she talks about her life as a Chinese Malaysian, wife, mother, daughter and artist. She expresses the feeling of being torn between the traditional and also with wanting to just BE. She is not afraid to be bold, especially with her representation of herself, and that just takes my breath away whenever I see her works.
Hwee Chu’s pieces tend to be collected by museums or major art institutions."
The identity impressionist
"Jailaini Abu Hassan, or more popularly known as Jai is a senior artist who frames local elements through a contemporary lens, his Neo-Expressionist style feels very vibrant and in line with the direction of our Malaysian identity. Jai is able to paint a simple kampung scene, but make it look so contemporary with his use of medium, imagery and colours, that even those of us who have grown up in totally urban environments can relate. Jai is also a professor of fine art at UiTM , thus shaping the mind of many upcoming young artists today.
"He is favoured by serious collectors. But Jai’s works are so easy on the eye that his works look great in any space—residential or commercial (keep an eye out for his works hanging in a few cool restaurants in KL), and are not only for art collectors but anyone who appreciates an aesthetically pleasing space."
"Malaysian mid-career artists are producing art that really speaks to what our lives are like right now. Azad Daniel uses new media in the form of super glossy car paint to create really cool Pop Art that fits so well into any contemporary space. Anniketyni Madian is one of the most in demand Malaysian sculptors; her intricately detailed wooden works can be seen at several spaces including Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's Google office, and the One & Only Desaru Coast, just to name a few.
"I recommend checking these two artists out if you are keen on buying good quality Malaysian contemporary art at a not-yet-super high price tag, though this reality won't be for long. Anni is super in demand and her works are now found in most collectors' homes. Azad is able to knock it out of the park with his clever play on both imagery and words; couple that with very slick production and his art is just really cool and clever."