Shalini Ganendra Fine Arts: A holistic approach to art and education

Inside view of the gallery which is a testament to vernacular material. ― Pictures courtesy of SGFA
Inside view of the gallery which is a testament to vernacular material. ― Pictures courtesy of SGFA

KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 ― Relatively small and emerging, the Malaysian contemporary arts scene is largely composed of privately-owned galleries and ad-hoc pop-up exhibitions of local and international talents.

But too many private galleries throughout the region have been neglecting the educational component and dispersion of knowledge which is required, indeed essential, in the arena of international contemporary art.

It is not enough today to simply present an exhibition schedule of admirable and commercially worthy artistic talent. As older contemporary markets indicate, and Eastern giants such as China are rapidly adopting, an engaging educational programme is crucial to the success and recognition of any cultural component.

Today’s art spectators are the most intellectual that they have ever been with information literally at their fingertips, dictating how art should be valued, appreciated and consumed.

Art for art’s sake, whilst still alive in those devotees of aesthetics who are talented enough to rely on their own artistic eye, is a small niche in this technological age where consumers are bombarded with information on a daily basis.

The typical contemporary viewer most often requires, indeed thrives on, information and educational incentives to filter through the chaos and allow for a succinct, well-rounded, engaging and altogether enjoyable experience. This is a key to success for cultural entities/galleries that wish to contend on the international platform of contemporary art.

Shalini Ganendra Fine Art’s (SGFA) cultural model is at the forefront of South-east Asian commercial galleries, as it has successfully incorporated an extensive educational programme into its exhibition schedule. There is a sense of gravitas with an engaging lightness to the place and programming.

SGFA’s holistic practice has secured a distinctive presence offering programmes that go well beyond exhibition, embracing the synergistic model of edification, cultural development and the commercial. 

Most notable is the UNESCO-endorsed, non-profit Vision Culture Lectures which have hosted curators from the Guggenheim, Smithsonian, ICP and the Rubin Museum amongst others.

In addition, SGFA works to maintain a connection between the Malaysian art scene and the international audience through its own advisory programme. The programme has seen SGFA in collaboration with Alliance Francaise, Leica film, and British designer William & Son.

The establishment also offers a comprehensive advisory programme for individual and corporate clients. Drawing upon broad expertise of international fine arts and design, with the focus on emerging regions, SGFA sources suitable artworks from a myriad of partnered and networked artists, going well beyond its select stable of artists.

ART HUG is another educational initiative tailored to the future of artistic preservation; the children. A free programme for those aged between 8 and 12 years, it allows children to harness and express their creative sides with the guidance of a visiting artist or resident of SGFA.

The SGFA Gallery is also an award-winning green space.
The SGFA Gallery is also an award-winning green space.

SGFA’s extensive network of international artists and arts professionals offers Malaysian children an exciting supplementary to regular arts education and introduces an understanding of international art at an early age.

Embrace is the theme here, but with focus. This gallery has developed a knowledge building ethos that can only enhance the collecting and appreciation.

Additionally, the SGFA Gallery Residence, an award-winning green space that is a testament to vernacular material and international design, serves as an educational and collaborative powerhouse for international exchange and arts discourse.

On a practical level, it provides the space in which work can be exhibited, viewed and collected but it also serves as the creative environment for both the Vision Culture Artist Residency and internship programmes.

The Artist Residency offers an attractive studio space, resource centre and living quarters for artists whose practice and relevance to the region of South-east Asia facilitate SGFA’s commitment to transnational interaction and exchange.

Previous Artists-in-Residence have included New-York based controversial visionary Zefrey Throwell, British sculptor Matt Golden and currently New Zealand’s Sam Thomas who is set to exhibit his residency collection in September.

SGFA Gallery Residence also hosts a residency programme which allows aspiring arts professionals to gain hands-on experience through gallery management and research projects.

The internship offers accommodation, publication opportunities and invaluable practical expertise in arts management all under the personal guidance of the gallery’s director. Residents are literally immersed in the gallery space both inside and outside of gallery hours as dedicated sitters and custodians to the gallery and its art. Rare it is that one gets within arm’s reach of art these days but in SGFA's Gallery Residence is the opportunity to live with art in an unprecedented and unintimidating manner.

Recently, the gallery hosted Torres Island luminary, Brian Robinson, who spoke and exhibited a selection of museum quality prints. In tandem with the Vision Culture programme, there was art by top-ranking Malaysian artist, Zac Lee and Sri Lankan stars, Sanjeewa Kumara and Sujeewa Kumari. A well-rounded view of the established in emerging regions.

SGFA’s growing presence can be attributed to informed passion, smart work ethic and belief in collaboration. With an unyielding desire to present, educate and make accessible art of one of the world’s most vibrant regions SGFA has proven an exemplifier of cultural innovation and prosperity. A luminary vision indeed for the future of the Malaysian arts scene.

For more information on SGFA’s programmes and contact, visit

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