Artists with Pioneering Status


The Eight Pioneers of Malaysian Art exhibition will be held throughout March 2013 at the Penang State Art Gallery. This reflects Datuk Dr Tan Chee Khuan’s bold attempt at the difficult and always controversial task of saying who is a pioneer and who is not.

In 1992, a practising psychiatrist who had been collecting art for only five years produced, out of the blue, a fairly scholarly tome on the genesis of Modern Malaysian Art. Called Pioneers of Malaysian Art (PMA), the self-published coffee-table book broke new ground in several ways.

It was, unbelievingly, the first time so many early artists – some even not all that well known – were identified as pioneers and had their life history chronicled and explicated, complete with their works and many never-before-seen (or-known) images.

It democratised art-writing, taking it out of the cloistered domain of self-styled art critics/historians to other stakeholders with new ideas and approaches.

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