Bringing a taste of Malaysian art to the airport

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Airports these days have evolved to become places of leisure with some airports offering shopping malls, movie theatres, cultural villages and many more activities. KL International Airport itself already has a large shopping mall at its second terminal and consistently holds cultural showcases. Now the airport operator, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is upping its game even further by bringing Malaysian art to the airport.

Senior general manager of commercial service Nazli Aziz said MAHB is collaborating with the National Visual Arts Development Board (NVADB) to look into ways to transform certain areas in the airport with artworks from the National Art Gallery.

While not all passengers may be interested in art, the airport can be a platform to ignite an interest in art as it is in a more accessible location to the general public.

“For guests who come through our gateway, we hope to provide them a taste of our culture. As for guests who are in transit and do not have the chance to go out of the airport, we hope to present a good form of introduction to our country,” he said.

Amongst the areas in KLIA, the airport operated by MAHB, that Nazli has in mind to showcase curated art, are the Anjung Tinjau viewing deck, and the long passageway leading to it.

“If this initiative matures in a good way, we can also expand it into the gate lounges, where we can have more curated shows. We want the art pieces to convey positive messages about the country as a multiracial society, and its culture,” he said.

Nazli said under this collaboration, NVADB will be responsible to curate the artwork at the airport.

“Interaction with the artworks might help passengers to sort of slow down, maybe take something in that, something that they had not thought about,” he said.

“The idea is to have some form of curated art exhibition at the gateway of the country. So we will start with Langkawi by end of this year, and KLIA next year, and we will move on to the rest of the other airports.

“Art exhibition can be in many forms of narrative, from photography to painting, video art, installations, sculpture and even dance performances,” he added.

Nazli said apart from enhancing the passenger experience in the airport, the initiative could also support the local art industry by enabling artists to showcase their artwork at a publicly accessible platform.

“The airport is a highly accessible place. Sometimes the problem with art is that it is very confined to an art gallery, and the layman may be intimidated to enter it. However, the airport is a public facility and when passengers pass through the airport, that is where the interest will come about.”

“It is all about the airport experience now and we want to start it step by step. Hopefully our collaboration with NVADB will allow us to start something that is meaningful, so that in the end the airport would have a permanent art exhibition,” he said.

“But one thing for sure, it provides the experience to passengers, so when they are in transit, they would have a chance to understand the culture and contemporary art of the country. For an artist, you have a chance to showcase your work on an international platform,” he added.

Nazli hopes that the exhibition at the airports would also turn out to be reflective of the creativity of the local community.

“For example in Langkawi, which is known for its marble, one of the things that NVADB is looking at is to get a few artists to use marble as a medium and turn it into art objects, and we will then display them within the airport for a certain period, before they go to the permanent collection of the National Art Gallery,” he said.

Nazli said the initiative to curate art in MAHB’s airports is timely for the airport operator to participate in promoting the Kuala Lumpur Biennale 2020, a mega scale international contemporary art exhibition, organised by NVAGB, which is aimed to be an integral part of Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

“If we are able to do that, not only we are able to help foster the identity and profile of Malaysia and to position Kuala Lumpur as one of the must visit city in the global art map, but also the business benefits to the airport eco system,” he said.

By having this initiative, Nazli hopes that even passengers who are in a rush would stop for a minute and look at an artwork in the airport, allowing MAHB to give them some kind of memory that they could take with them on their journey.