Returning for its third instalment, the three-month-long CIMB Artober aims to empower artists in Malaysia and give collectors, established and new, a space to explore expressive works by local talent. This initiative, organised by CIMB Group, made its debut at the height of the pandemic, when numerous galleries and artists struggled to survive amid the lockdowns. The event created a buzz at end-2020 and, with its success, has grown from strength to strength.
“Artober reflects our ambition to promote creative industry, which will then enable economic empowerment that will lead to what we call ‘community well-being’,” says Rafe Haneef, CEO of CIMB Foundation.
This year, 15 of the most reputable galleries in Malaysia are taking part and more than 600 curated new artworks will be available to the public.
“Our main objective is to bring all of them together to create that buzz, that excitement. So, everyone in the art scene and the greater industry will look forward to the last three months of the year … CIMB is promoting this awareness and appreciation, and building a marketplace for artists and collectors and what we call ‘aspiring art collectors’. We are seeing more and more people collecting art with the exposure we have given, as well as having a better appreciation for it.”
The importance of art is sometimes forgotten in Malaysia. “Art becomes a part of history,” says Rafe. “When the next generation goes back to look at it, they can see a piece of history being preserved. Visual art helps us understand society at that point in time. It’s not just a piece of art; it’s an expression of society.” Most countries have iconic artists — for example, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh — whose works bring pride and prestige.
Even in Indonesia, the art industry is growing and evolving. “Indonesia’s creative industry is blooming and flourishing, to the extent that it now contributes to about 8% of the GDP. They have defined the creative industry very broadly — not just art, but also fashion, media, publishing, architecture and culinary art. Look at anything that you make; it could be a cake or noodles, and that is an art. Indonesia is doing very well, but Malaysia is still lagging behind. Our contribution from this broad definition of creative industry to GDP is about 2%. About 5.7% of Indonesia’s population is in the creative industry, which is quite significant.”
Rafe hopes that, through Artober, the definition of art in Malaysia can also be expanded. For instance, this year’s iteration includes the CIMB Artober Fashion Week, which will be held from Oct 20 to 23 at Menara Ken TTDI. Eight local designers — including Datuk Radzuan Radziwill, Pink Jambu, Anuar Faizal and Masyadi Mansoor — will present resort and art-to-wear collections inspired by batik fabrics and crafted in collaboration with local artists. In years to come, other art forms can be expected to join the Artober line-up, including culinary offerings.
Until Dec 31, CIMB Artober will feature events to look forward to. On Oct 15, Glo Damansara Mall will hold CIMB WoWeek!, a special experience for loyal customers, with artistes such as Yonnyboii, iamNEETA, Nuha & Naufal and a surprise rock legend performing in an hour-long concert that includes an art-to-wear showcase. This event will be livestreamed on the bank’s Facebook page.
From Oct 20 to 24, Menara Ken TTDI will also hold the CIMB Artober Art & Soul fair, where new seminal works curated by prestigious Malaysian galleries will be displayed. Some of the names in the exhibition are Dato Tajuddin Ismail, Ahmad Fuad Osman, Rafiee Ghani, Husin Hourmain, Kow Leong Kiang, Masnoor Ramli Mahmud, Raduan Man and Suhaimi Fadzir.
Art & Soul goes a step further towards building an art marketplace. “Hopefully, with events like this, the emerging affluent segment of society will support these kinds of creative work,” says Rafe. “To be successful in their field, artists need a marketplace, which is lacking in Malaysia. The ultimate aim is to build a vibrant marketplace where artists, art lovers and collectors can merge and create more demand. Today, the supply side is quite strong, but we need to make sure the demand side grows in tandem.”
As CIMB Foundation celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, it will join the Artober festivities by supporting new talent through the Malaysia Emerging Artist (MEA) Award. Rafe says: “We have been focusing on four key pillars to make a positive impact on the community we serve in. First is economic empowerment; second is health and community well-being; third is education; and fourth is environment, climate change and so on.
“Promoting art comes partly under economic empowerment, so Artober looks not only at the creative industry but also how we can bring out more emerging artists, to empower them economically.”
The brainchild of famed local artist, Bayu Utomo Radjikin of HOM Art Trans, the MEA Award gives unknown artists the platform to showcase their works. From Oct 13 to 24, Glo Damansara Mall will hold a public display of 100 pieces by new artists, available for purchase, and an art-to-wear showcase by students from four fashion colleges.
The five winning artists will receive RM10,000 each, a year’s worth of art supplies and a trip to 10 galleries in Indonesia. They will also get the chance to present fully sponsored solo exhibitions. “Our emerging artists are really talented. That’s why the trip to Indonesia is very important — they [Indonesian artists] are way ahead of us in terms of quality and calibre. By going there and visiting the galleries, [our artists] will learn additional techniques and, hopefully, refine their works for next year.”
Other events to look forward to in Artober include the Hotel Art Fair (Nov 23 to 27) at Element Kuala Lumpur — where 15 galleries will showcase artworks and sculptures inside transformed hotel rooms — and the Pahang Pavilion exhibition. Presented in Malaysia for the first time, the latter will showcase Tenun fabrics on loan from Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah’s wardrobe.
“One should really look at art as a reflection of society itself. The more sophisticated and more developed society becomes, the more the expression of art will be sophisticated,” says Rafe. With the next three months brimming with excitement, it would be safe to say future Artobers might include international artists and a wider interpretation of art.
This article first appeared on Oct 10, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.