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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Global Eye Programme readies Malaysian edition


The international art initiative expands to Malaysia.

CONTINUING the vision to bring contemporary Asian art into the sights of the international community, Parallel Contemporary Art and Prudential Corporation Asia are teaming up again to bring the Global Eye Programme to Malaysian shores.

The Global Eye Programme, a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting emerging artists, was established by British-based Parallel Contemporary Art in collaboration with The Saatchi Gallery in London, and has previously highlighted artists from Hong Kong (2013), Indonesian (2011) and South Korea (2008).

Parallel Contemporary Art co-founder David Ciclitira said he and his wife Serenella got the idea to start the Global Eye after they could not find a catalogue on contemporary Korean creatives, despite the country's burgeoning art scene.

The couple who have been collecting art for over 25 years summed up the reason for the programme as "because we like art and we like artists."

To date, the Global Eye Programme has held 17 exhibitions worldwide and been viewed by over two million people. Prudential Corporation Asia has acted as a key sponsor in previous Hong Kong Eye and Indonesian Eye exhibitions, and will be the title sponsor of the Malaysian leg.

In the upcoming local edition, Prudential Malaysian Eye is set to bring together the works of over 20 artists from various mediums in an exhibition at MAP, Publika in Kuala Lumpur next year (March 27 to April 30). The exhibit will be curated by Serenella Ciclitira, Britain's Saatchi Gallery CEO Nigel Hurst and Hong Kong's Hanart TZ Gallery director Chang Tsong-Zung.

A reference book Malaysian Eye: Contemporary Malaysian Art, featuring even more Malaysian artists will also be published, with the 75 participating artists then being roped in to host master classes, as part of the programme's education initiative.

This programme cumulates with selected artists from the exhibition moving on to a second leg of the exhibit: as part of START at the Saatchi Gallery in London, in June 2014.

"We have received an overwhelming response, with over 200 artist's portfolios submitted for consideration," said Ciclitira.

The portfolios will be chosen by Galeri Chandan founder and managing director Nazli Aziz and a panel of foreign art experts to ensure the artists chosen are evaluated with a international eye. While the organisers remain hush on which artist will be featured, the line-up is expected to be finalised before the year end.

Western masterpieces offered up to Chinese buyers


Chinese tastes have become more international and diversified.

A US$50mil (RM161mil) Rembrandt portrait takes pride of place in a Beijing hotel room, with Picassos and Renoirs dotting the walls as major Western auction houses look to tempt China's super-rich with Europe's finest art.

The exhibition, running until Dec 1, ranks among the more distinguished displays of Western art seen in the Chinese capital, but is actually a private sale by international auctioneers Sotheby's.

It also includes works by Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec and Delacroix, among others.

Except for the Rembrandt, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, painted in 1658, prices are not displayed or publicly disclosed – but undoubtedly rank in the category of "if you have to ask you can't afford it".

Chinese collectors have sent prices for their own country's heritage spiralling on the back of its economic boom, and are now turning their attention to Western items too.

"What we have seen in the last five years, is that there is a lot of Asian appetite in terms of Western art and the purchase by mainland Chinese has gone up by 500%," Sotheby's Asia chairman Patti Wong told AFP.

"As more Chinese get to see many exhibitions and with greater ability to travel abroad, their interest will inevitably widen," she added. "Over time the taste becomes more international and more diversified."

Sotheby's forged an alliance with the state-owned art company GeHua Art to crack open entry to the China art market, while its great rival Christie's held its first independent auction in mainland China in September.

That sale came after Christie's owner, French billionaire Fran├žois Pinault, gave two bronze animal heads looted from Beijing's Old Summer Palace in 1860 – long a symbol of Western exploitation – back to Chinese authorities earlier this year.

Whether it sells all the pieces or not, Sotheby's regards the mere fact of its exhibition as a success.

"It doesn't matter that we don't have immediate reaction but you see that there is interest and sooner or later we believe that these buyers will migrate into our sale rooms in London and New York," said Wong.

Some viewers were at the exhibition purely for the art. "In order to see these works before, we had to go abroad," said one viewer, Hou Jie.

"We had to go to Paris and places like the Louvre. Now, this kind of exhibition will make Beijingers and mainland Chinese better understand Western art."

But Nancy Murphy, an expert on the Chinese art market, said auction houses were primarily motivated by the prospect of more business.

"I have seen Chinese in Beijing line up for hours to view exhibitions of major Western art in museum and gallery shows; there is a real appetite for more exposure to the real pieces, and Christie's and Sotheby's can tap into that," she said.

In November China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, bought the 1950 Picasso painting Claude and Paloma for US$28mil (RM90) at a New York auction.

At the same Christie's event, Chinese customers also bought works by Henry Moore, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Wang, whose personal wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at US$14bil (RM45bil), has recently sought to make a splash in cultural circles – although he came under criticism from Chinese internet users for spending his firm's money on foreign art.

He already has works by major Chinese modern art names, and the addition of a Picasso to his walls is part of a wider trend among Chinese art collectors to internationalise their collections.

But such relationships have not always been happy. The last great wave of Asian buying came as Japan reached the height of its economic power in the 1980s, culminating in 1990 when Japanese paper tycoon Ryoei Saito bought van Gogh's Portrait of Dr Gachet for US$82.5mil (RM266mil) and Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette for US$78.1mil (RM252mil).

He triggered outrage across the art world later when he said he would have the canvases put in his coffin and cremated with him when he died.

The Rembrandt at the hotel fetched US$33mil (RM106mil) the last time it was auctioned, when casino billionaire Steve Wynn bought it at Christie's in London in 2009, a record at the time for the artist. Wynn later sold it to the current, anonymous, vendor.

Gu Xunming, a former artist who now works for a Beijing art museum, was transfixed by the portrait.

"I think the people who want to buy the painting the most are artists," he said. "But no matter how much they want it, they can't afford it.

"The buyer will be rich, but not necessarily understand art. This is the trend in China." – AFP Relaxnews

Divine show from National Choir


There's nothing like a choir spectacle to stir the soul.

IT was like stepping into a different time zone last Saturday at Matic's Tunku Abdul Rahman Auditorium in Kuala Lumpur as it was filled with the sound of popular songs taken from movies and plays. The show aptly titled A Musical Journey Of Theatre And Film Concert was true to its title.

With Christmas around the corner and this beautiful choral concert on stage, one could not help but be totally mesmerised by such beautiful voices.

Performed by the National Choir of Malaysia (Koir Kebangsaan Malaysia), the night started off on a high note as the 40-piece choir together with guest singer Syafinaz Selamat and Mak Yong performer Rosnan Rahman (aka Pak Yong) delivered a beautiful and mesmerising Nuance Of Rebab Fantasy.

The song was specially composed by Fairuz Zamani (who is also the pianist for the ensemble) for the concert. It featured a delightful choral piece with a new musical arrangement based on the famous traditional Mak Yong tune Mengadap Rebab.

The hall was positively glowing with Syafinaz's classically-trained vocals interwoven with Rosnan's earthy and dramatic Mak Yong delivery.

To think that Syafinaz and the conductor Mohd Amri Mohd Zin had been planning and working for the longest time just to get a Mak Yong song in the choir.

Though one couldn't really understand the lyrics (it was in Kelantanese dialect), but the tune's melody, and the vocal prowess of both Syafinaz and Rosnan were more than enough to get you under its spell.

From a Mak Yong song, the audience was then taken on a ride via musical West Side Story with Tonight, I Feel Pretty, Maria and America.

Enchanting vocal performances.. Vox Aurora members (from left)  Rabi'atul Raba'ah Baharuddin,Lilis Syafuza Mohd Yatim and Nurul Fazlina Ariff Abdullah performed Mandarin Song Chiu Kan Tang Bue Bo at A Musical Journey Of Theatre And Film Concert held at Matic last Saturday.

Vox Aurora members (from left) Rabi'atul Raba'ah Baharuddin, Nur Hidayah Jamaluddin and Nurul Fazlina Ariff Abdullah performed Mandarin song Chiu Kan Tang Bue Bo.

It was soon followed by The Impossible Dream taken from Man Of La Mancha.

If those tunes were not enough to swoon the audience over, Don't Cry for Me Argentina and On This Night Of A Thousand Stars from Evita definitely did the job. The night was just getting better when the ensemble performed the late Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman, taken from the movie of the same title. Seeing a young woman strutting stageside in thigh-high boots reminded us so much of Julia Roberts' antics in the movie. Delicious!

And who could forget Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes which came next?

For a choir concert newbie like myself, it was definitely a musical feast for the ears. It was exciting to catch the rich harmonies on tunes like Do Re Mi and Climb Every Mountain (Sound Of Music), Listen (Dreamgirls), Consider Yourself (Oliver!), Pantom of the Opera (Phantom Of The Opera).

Syafinaz Selamat, who was also the concert¿s aristic and vocal director, performed the highly-popular Anuar Zain¿s Sedetik Lebih (Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa). And the beautiful performances showcased Syafinaz classical style which drew smiles on Anuar who was among the audience that night at the A Musical Journey Of Theatre And Film Concert.

Artistic and vocal director Syafinaz Selamat.

Much to everyone's delight, Syafinaz, who was also the concert's artistic and vocal director, kept the local flavour in the spotlight.

She performed the highly-popular Anuar Zain's Sedetik Lebih (Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa), which drew smiles from Anuar who was in the audience that night.

Other Malay songs performed were the infectious Ombak Rindu (Ombak Rindu), Sandarkan Pada Kenangan (Azura) and a medley of Puncak Tertinggi and Asmaradana (from Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical).

The haunting Pulangkan (Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2), popularised by Misha Omar, was performed by all-girl group Vox Aurora (Rabi'atul Raba'ah Baharuddin, Nur Hidayah Jamaluddin and Nurul Fazlina Ariff Abdullah). The girls just blew the audience away with their superb vocals and theatrical stunts (yes, white dresses amidst thick fog on stage).

Led by Vox Aurora, the choir made quite an impression when it performed the famous Mandarin song Chiu Kan Tang Bue Bo (Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing).

It was a wonderful way to end the night when Tamil song Balleilakka (taken from movie Sivaji The Boss) got the hall clapping along. Surely a spot of dancing would have made it all the more merry. A party-flavoured choir outing next? Over to you, Syafinaz.


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