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'Holding Up a Mirror', Malaysia’s inaugural national pavilion at Venice Biennale

The National Art Gallery of Malaysia is delighted to present Holding Up a Mirror, Malaysia’s inaugural national pavilion at the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition presents four eminent Malaysian artists – Anurendra Jegadeva, H.H. Lim, Ivan Lam and Zulkifli Yusoff - and will be on display at the Palazzo Malipiero from 9 May to 24 November 2019.

Holding Up a Mirror is a discourse around the concept of identity within the larger context of society at a time of immense political, social and economic change. Marking both the country’s first ever National Pavilion and the one year anniversary of the 2018 Malaysian elections, which united the country around the Pakatan Harapan coalition, and ushered in a new era for Malaysian identity. The exhibition reflects the overarching theme of the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live in Interesting Times within a Malaysian context.

Commenting on her role, Curator and Project Director Lim Wei-Ling said: “I have always questioned why the country has never been represented on this major international art platform, and it’s been my ambition to spearhead Malaysia’s first National Pavilion. The Malaysia Pavilion features the works of four Malaysian artists who have already established stellar careers and carved solid reputations, both in Malaysia and abroad. Malaysia’s inaugural National Pavilion is a first step forward for the country and I hope it will mark the beginning of many more National Pavilions.”

H.H. Lim's "Four Seasons"

Malaysia is a confluence of many cultures and multiple histories, which have intertwined over
centuries, integrating narratives of diaspora and migration. The artists exhibiting in the Malaysian Pavilion are an illustration of these different ethnicities and origins; while each artist is “Malaysian”, their religious and cultural roots illuminate the many histories embedded in the Malaysian identity.

Together, the works represent an enquiry around self when perceived against a wider framework of the collective. They demonstrate that identity is heterogeneous and in constant flux; it is a weave of many personal narratives into a shared fabric of public consciousness that is at once diverse and unified. Across different media – painting, video, sound and installation – the represented artists offer a commentary on their own search around identity, embracing concepts and ideologies around cultural hegemony, patriarchy, and globalisation.

The Pavilion of Malaysia has been supported by Professor Dato’ Dr. Mohamed Najib Dawa,
Director General of Balai Seni Negara (National Art Gallery of Malaysia), Ministry of Tourism, Arts
and Culture of Malaysia. The pavilion has been made possible through the generous support of
the following Gold sponsors: CREADOR Foundation and BRDB Developments and Silver Sponsor: Seeing Eye Arts. This project is also supported by Big Tree and Allianz, and endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia, and Balai Seni Negara (National Art Gallery of Malaysia).

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