SGFA on Malaysian Artists and its Holistic Art & Culture Weekend

Bibi Chew Silk Series Sculpture, mixed media (2016). Image courtesy of SGFA.


Launched two decades ago, Shalini Ganendra Fine Art (SGFA) has established itself as an expert in Southeast Asian contemporary art, playing the role of curator and advisor. Today, the gallery is more than just a place to buy art. Founder, DATIN SHALINI GANENDRA has added culture pioneer in its portfolio with the launch of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur in 2016. She tells us about the creative directions local artists are taking, how the arts landscape has evolved, and why the city needs its own Gallery Weekend.


For the past two decades, SGFA has created a name for itself in the contemporary art scene, covering emerging regions in Asia, and establishing a distinctive presence in the region playing the role of curator and advisor. The gallery has since added culture pioneer to its portfolio with the launch of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur last year.

Datin Shalini Ganendra, founder of SGFA speaks to us about the creative directions our artists are taking, how the arts landscape has developed over the years, and her hopes for the arts scene. Click below to listen to the conversation.



“We need to be aspirational in the way that we create, we need to be ahead of the curve, and to do that actually requires…knowing where we come from, what we stand for and what we believe in…” – Datin Shalini Ganendra


View from the upper floor of Shalini Ganendra Fine Art. Photo: Maya Tan



















“Malaysian artists have always had a diversity of practice which is very welcoming… There’s a trend of artists like Bibi Chew and Zac Lee… [where] they refer back to their upbringing, their ethnicity, political circumstances, global commentary vis-a-vis how Malaysia sits in the geo-political systems, [and] work with different materiality that reflect their own cultures… These are not forced narratives, but what they know.”


Zac Lee, The Rule of Law, 96 x 96 cm, oil on jute, 2016. Image courtesy SGFA.


“The last 15 years have seen… an emphasis on development in the education structure…to bring about more meaningful practice. There have been more public spaces to encourage public appreciation and international recognition. Then there’s the commercial element… The reality is that if an ecosystem is not financed, it’s not going to survive, so the commercial element is important.”


Sculpture by Anniketyni Madian, 2016, Shalini Ganendra Fine Art. Photo: Maya Tan


SGFA is the mastermind behind Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur, a 3-day arts event launched in 2016 involving galleries, institutions, restaurants and hotels across Greater Kuala Lumpur, aimed at creating a holistic cultural experience encompassing art, culture, tourism and gastronomy.

“Progress should not only be measured by economics but also by appreciation. We want to encourage local audiences not to be intimidated by visual arts and not to view it as elitist, but as a further method to understand the world around us.”
National Visual Arts Gallery, Malaysia, as part of Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur, 2016. Image courtesy of GWKL.


“The Gallery Weekend as a standalone is very important. One can see cultural tourists actually coming to Malaysia specifically to engage with the Gallery Weekend and to see how the city of Kuala Lumpur works, what it has to offer.”

The 2018 edition of Gallery Weekend involves partnerships with other international gallery weekends, including Brussels and Barcelona and will offer an inter-disciplinary program, in collaboration with textile museums, restaurants and leading contemporary art galleries including Think City Grantee – Our Art Projects at the Zhongshan Building. To find out more see or


This story was first published under the now-defunct “Think City Channel”.

#artandculture #visualarts #culture