Art Expo Malaysia 2014 @ Matrade

Despite occupying a larger space and expecting a larger crowd, the overwhelming presence of rectangular paintings and metallic sculptures mark this year’s exposition as a collective bore. Hard-edged works are glimpsed at the Austrian embassy and Fujian Contemporary, but otherwise one has to settle at the Taksu booth for good international art, at the same time taking in Sabihis Pandi’s deliciously quirky ‘Slurp’. Azad Daniel’s clever phone covers and Zulkifli Yusoff’s multilayered grids draw visitors into the GCMA section, the latter work’s subdued tone and long texts depicting the necessarily tedious nature of a government program. Other local art galleries and solo booths peddle new works, some at inflated prices, as artists and collectors capitalize on art as commodity.

Installation view of Sabihis Pandi - Slurp (2014) [picture from Studio Pohon Rendang's Facebook page]

Henry Butcher’s displays include captivating large works by Ahmad Fuad Osman and FX Harsono; Otherwise one can appreciate older paintings on show from the collections of University of Malaya and AmBank. Twelve selected young artists showcase their output at a prominent junction, notwithstanding its poor presentation and jargon-laden wall texts. Cheng Yen Pheng’s newspaper-covered balloons stand out for its visual impact, while Yau Sir Meng’s melted construct is always a delightful sight to behold. Critical art is an unrealistic expectation at an art fair, just like the notion of art investment being a superior asset class, although the sales pitch by Art Futures Group was interesting. As tastemakers blinded by price tags jostle for position, one can spend this weekend better by driving past Jalan Duta, and appreciate better art at the National Visual Arts Gallery.

Installation view of Cheng Yen Pheng - Kabar Angin