ART galleries which mushroomed in the Klang Valley due to strong demand, might be paring down as new platforms for selling art are being made available, say industry practitioners.
NN Gallery founder Syed Nabil Syed Nahar was one of the earlier players to trade a permanent location for rented space to host pop-up exhibits.
“Although we closed the gallery in 2013, the company continued.
“Frankly, I do not miss having a gallery at all – you end up having to be there all the time,” he said, adding that it allowed him to meet more artists and clients.
Syed Nabil and his sister Sharifah Nor Akmar founded NN Gallery in 1996 in a Bukit Bintang bungalow before moving to a gallery in Taman Ampang Hilir, Ampang.
“Though we were doing well enough, by the end of it I realised most sales were over the phone.
Mohana explaining about the programmes planned which aimed to make the mall into an art hub.
“The gallery was not conducive for clients as the place was perpetually congested and parking spots were scarce,” he said.
Syed Nabil said this significantly lowered running costs, although they still maintained all four staff.
He said NN Gallery was able to make the transition as it had “paid its dues” and built strong industry contacts as well as the trust of long-term clients.
RA Fine Arts was another established gallery to recently adopt the format and shut its gallery on May 10.
Gallery manager Ruzaimah Abdul Latif said the move was partially due to high maintenance and rental costs.
“Walk-ins didn’t translate to sales.
“We have clients whom we suggest art pieces to, and they would come to the gallery to see the artworks in person,” she said.
Gallo (left) talks about how she juggles between being an artist and running her gallery, which is one of the two to inhabit Publika mall’s Art Row. — Photos: ROHAIZAT MD DARUS/The Star
The 10-year-old gallery was the first to move into Solaris Dutamas in 2011, now a hotspot for galleries rivalling those in the city centre and Bangsar.
Ruzaimah Abdul said having many galleries in a cluster did not lead to over saturation nor unhealthy competition, instead they were mutually beneficial to the different companies as collectors recognised it as an art hub.
Publika Art Department executive Mohana Kumara Velu said it was a conscious effort by the mall operator to court galleries, in line with Publika’s tagline “Bring Art to Life, Life to Art”.
She said efforts included the annual MAP art festival, art walks for visitors to learn about the galleries and its Art Row – an incubator featuring design and art startups (including galleries) at rented lots at discounted rates.
The mall’s galleries include Artelier Gallery, Artemis Art Gallery, Artisan Fine Art, Galeri Chandan, Interpr8 Art Space, Segaris Art Centre and Pipal Fine Art, and two temporary galleries on the Art Row – Galeri Titik Merah and Ella Art Space.
Art consultant company RogueArt’s Malaysia Art Map identifies seven galleries in Publika, which is adjacent to Solaris Dutamas.
Malaysia Multimedia University Faculty of Creative Multimedia lecturer Yap Sau Bin, who edited the map with RogueArt co-founder Rachel Ng, said the positioning of a gallery – as a commercial or educational enterprise – determined where it opens, with commercial galleries gravitating to affluent areas to reflect its target market.
“There is a benefit having galleries bunched together, it builds collegiality and intensifies healthy competition, as galleries are made to consider highlighting different artists and themes,” he said.
For example, Artemis Art Gallery focused on young and upcoming regional artists while Galeri Chandan displayed established contemporary artists and Pipal Fine Art preferred works by Malaysia’s veteran artists and old masters.
Yap, who worked on a similar map in 2005 while part of artist collective Rumah Air Panas, said the number of galleries in Klang Valley had mushroomed over the last 10 years, though it had also decentralised, with smaller galleries moving out of affluent neighbourhoods and some to different states.