When CIMB Group launched The Cooler Earth Sustainability Summit in 2019, the name was coined to reflect the global climate issues our planet is now reckoning with. Nevertheless, the summit — which gathers global experts and local key players to dialogue and establish definitive action on sustainable business practices — covers not only environmental issues, but also those of economy and society.
As this year’s Cooler Earth is ongoing, there is a particularly interesting sub-initiative that challenges one to look at the idea of sustainability from a broader viewpoint. The banking group has thrown its support behind the local visual arts scene with its first CIMB Artober campaign, established to celebrate and promote Malaysian arts.
Speaking to Options, CIMB’s group chief sustainability officer Rafe Haneef shares the bigger picture and vision behind this unexpected championing of local arts. “First, when we say sustainability, it means ensuring that when we provide financing to our customers, we’re able to measure the impact of our financing, to ensure that it does not have a negative impact on people and our planet,” he explains.
CIMB approaches this goal from two angles: One is by monitoring its customers’ nature of business and practices in various sectors; the other is to measure CIMB’s own activities, such as its carbon footprint in daily operations. In both, it aims to create and adhere to sustainable policies that lead to a positive impact or, at the least, minimise any negative effects.
“Our commitment and five-year plan to achieve a sustainable banking practice led us to become a signatory of the UNEP-FI (United Nations’ Environment Programme Finance Initiative Principles for Responsible Banking). In UNEP-FI’s Sustainable Development Goal No 11, it addresses the need to build sustainable cities and communities. And in Target 11.4, it further talks about safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural heritage,” Rafe continues.
The homing-in on the Malaysian contemporary arts scene is inspired by the principle of “profits with purpose”, a key theme of the summit. Another theme is the building of resilient communities, with the campaign shining a spotlight on the local visual arts industry at a particularly critical time, since it is among the worst affected industries of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to do what we can. You know there’s the whole ‘kita jaga kita’ movement going on as well. As we talked about building equitable societies, we thought about how we could also ensure that these artists were able to have a sustainable income. Can we give them access to our large pool of customers, be it private, preferred or our credit card customers?” asks Rafe, who played a role in carving out CIMB’s sustainability roadmap.
From Oct 3 to Nov 15, nine galleries participating in Artober will have ongoing exhibitions that the public can attend. For its part, the bank is promoting these shows among its targeted customer base, incentivising them with special credit card discounts if they purchase artworks, along with other promotions.
“We also collaborated with two local hotels, Four Seasons and Element Kuala Lumpur. They have among the biggest local art collections of hotels in town, and we are inviting our customers to go view these works, while also taking advantage of the tax relief announced for local tourism and maybe opt for a stay. Of course, with our cards, they can get better rates, and go gallery-hopping around the city. Call it an artistic holiday, if you will,” smiles Rafe.
He hopes this will help build appreciation for local arts and culture. At the same time, CIMB will also be videoing a few of Malaysia’s biggest private art collections, which will be posted on its website as a way to educate the public on art and to create more interest.
Still, it is a given that art is best enjoyed and viewed in person. Among Artober’s most exciting shows is Art Gallery Weekend, which was held from Oct 9 to 11. Titled Right Here! Right Now!, the multi-gallery show jointly organised by Richard Koh Fine Art (RKFA), The Back Room, Core Design Gallery, Suma Orientalis and Artemis Art features five young and vibrant artists — C C Kua, Haafiz Shahimi, Jane Stephanny, Joshua Kane Gomes and Syahbandi Samat — showcased five new works each. One work per artist was placed at the respective galleries, therefore adding an Easter egg hunt element, encouraging the public to visit all five galleries to view the complete series of works.
Richard Koh, who initiated the Art Gallery Weekend collaboration, says RKFA is holding another group show in conjunction with its 15th anniversary. “It’s called In Our Own Frame, and features our stable of more senior artists. We felt that, with the ongoing pandemic, we didn’t want to do a big show. So, this is a small celebration. But we’re still glad that our shows can be part of Artober. Every bit of support and visit counts in this time,” he notes.
Also hosting another group exhibition is Core Design Gallery, which will display its second drawing-focused series by 10 artists, titled Much 2Do about Drawing, showcasing the depth of possibilities that the practice of drawing can offer.
Further, Suma Orientalis will present the third solo exhibition of emerging artist Tiong Chai Heing, Between the End and the Beginning, where she uses oil paint and found objects to concoct chaos and curiosity, a sort of black hole that signals the inevitable endings of life’s chapters. Meanwhile, Sarawakian artist Edroger Rosili will hold an exhibition with Segaris Art Center. Centred on human existence, it explores the relationship of the body and our actions. Other galleries include A+ Works of Art, which is showcasing Singaporean artist Ho Rui An’s first solo exhibition in Southeast Asia, G13 Gallery, Nadine Fine Art and Taksu Gallery.
Rafe, an art collector himself, observes of the Malaysian visual arts climate: “Certainly, the scene here has room for improvement. If you look at Indonesia, there is a huge and thriving art scene, with lots of support from the local community. Our art scene should be as vibrant and, hopefully, we can pave the way for that and be a catalyst to help rejuvenate the arts and culture sector in Malaysia.”
For more information on Artober, see here.
This article first appeared on Oct 5, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.