Beneath Kuala Lumpur’s façade of busy highways, bustling streets and soaring skyscrapers lies a sanctuary for artists and art enthusiasts. While, once, the best works of art were confined to the realm of high-end galleries and homes of the affluent, rapid gentrification of KL in recent years has created a surge in the launch of art establishments.
From Islamic artefacts to numismatic collections, the city’s museums have something to stimulate the whole family. Here’s our top 7 of Kuala Lumpur’s top museums for your next outing:
If you think that free attractions means substandard attractions, Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery will blow you away. We consider Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery to be one of the best in Kuala Lumpur for its well-curated collections and modern facilities. Bank Negara, Malaysia’s central bank, prides itself on being a patron of Malaysian arts. The organization’s art gallery features an impressive collection of 1,500 contemporary artworks acquired since 1962, including creations by early Malaysian masters such as Hossein Enas and Yong Mun Sen.
And don’t forget about the museum! We are the kind of people who’d immediately fall asleep the second they hear the word ‘economics’, but we fell hard for the museum. We felt that we learned so much more about the importance of economics, Islamic banking and financial planning just from one visit to the museum than what I did from the whole three semesters in high school! For an educational day, don’t miss out the Numismatics Gallery and the Children’s Gallery (highly recommended if you’re a child at heart).
Address: Sasana Kijang, 2, Jalan Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: Daily 10am-6pm
If you’re always on the lookout for exhibitions, there’s always something going on at the National Art Gallery, an agency under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia. The gallery was established in 1958 at the historical Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall, where the country’s First Meeting of the First Parliament was held in 1959, following Malaysia’s independence from British colonial rule two years earlier. Today, the gallery, with its iconic blue pyramidal roof, which is hard to miss, occupies its own site along Jalan Temerloh.
Not only is the gallery’s extensive collection of around 3,600 local and regional artworks impressive, its special initiatives to nurture young artistic talents is also something to be admired. The gallery features a permanent dedicated space for aspiring artists to exhibit their work. And the gallery’s annual Art Market Malaysia, which provides up and coming artists a platform to present their work, is a must-attend event, as it offers a glimpse into the trending artworks of the younger generation of artists.
Address: No. 2, Jalan Temerloh, Titiwangsa, 53200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: Daily 10am-6pm
If you don’t mind paying for your art fix, then a visit to Islamic Art Museum Malaysia is a must. Housed in a grand and airy structure, the museum is home to more than 10,000 artefacts from all around the Islamic world that spread across 12 galleries. If you’re a Southeast Asian yourself, you’ll definitely enjoy their Malay Archipelago Gallery, which includes day-to-day objects like prayer screens or Quran standees. Seeing that Islam is the religion of the federation, some basic understanding on the subject would help understand the state of art in Malaysia.
But even our foreigner friends will be awestruck by how diverse the Islamic world as they are presented with Islamic verses written in elegant Chinese calligraphy and bejewelled daggers that date back to the Mughal empire, which flourished in India between the 16th and mid-18th centuries. A visit here will definitely broaden your horizon and worth every penny.
Address: Jalan Lembah Perdana, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: Daily 9:30am-6pm
The new generation has also brought a different way of seeing art as a lifestyle necessity. Young Malaysians no longer see artworks as an afterthought after buying their carpets and drapes. These shifts in the Malaysian society sparked the growth of independent art galleries which seek to address the demands of the new generation.
One of these forward-thinking galleries is TAKSU, which offers a wide selection of fine art. Established in 1989, the gallery, situated in a residential neighborhood along Jalan Pawang, aims to help visitors envision how a piece of art would complement their urban lifestyle. Featuring various settings for the display of its artworks, it is easy to imagine how a painting would look when placed in a living room, or how a sculpture would fit next to a pretty koi pond.
Address: 17, Jalan Pawang, Kampung Datuk Keramat, 54000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Mon-Sat), closed on Sundays
As much as we love TAKSU gallery’s homey environment, we’re a bunch of city slackers who are happiest when we’re in the city, surrounded by KL’s vibrancy – amply evident in the bustling locality of Brickfields, home to the Wei-Ling Gallery, a pioneer in contemporary art.
Established in 2002, the art gallery features a collection of cutting-edge artwork from artists like Malaysian-born Choy Chun Wei, who excels in exciting mixed media works, and Singaporean Erika Tan, showcasing moving images. If you’re looking for a contemporary gallery in KL that continues to evolve and remain relevant, Wei-Ling Gallery is it. Aside from the collection, you can also admire the pre-war building that the gallery is housed in, which has been carefully refurbished after it was razed by a fire in 2004.
Address: 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Mon-Fri), 10am-5pm on Saturdays, closed on Sundays.
Despite the vibrant art scene, garnering active public participation in experiencing art at galleries, most of them situated outside KL’s touristy spots, remains a challenge. But a mere three-minute walk from Ampang Park LRT Station, ILHAM gallery is certainly accessible, and throughout the year, the establishment hosts fascinating exhibitions and events.
Despite the spacious gallery’s polished atmosphere, there is no admission fee. The gallery hosts several exhibitions throughout the year, which feel more like full-blown art festivals with everything from talks to workshops, which will nurture your artsy soul.
Address: Menara Ilham, 8, Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: 11am-7pm (Tue-Sat), 11am-5pm (Sun), closed on Mondays.
Yes, there’s nothing like talks and workshops (especially when they’re free) to enrich your soul. But to nurture creativity, you need constant stimulus from the right environment. If you’re ever in need to overcome artist’s block, drop by the Zhongshan Building to get a dose of inspiration. The cluster is home to OUR ArtProjects, a gallery space and art consultancy, but it’s also supported by a creative ecosystem.
Aside from the gallery, there’s a wide variety of businesses and organizations in the creative sector, including a music store, a bookstore, a music event space, and even a bakery and a café. There’s always a creative event here, ranging from exhibitions, music performances, talks and film screenings. But even when there’s nothing going on, one can just enjoy the positive vibe from being among a creative community.
Address: Jalan Kampung Attap, 80 – 84, Jalan Rotan, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan
Opening Hours (OUR ArtProjects): 11am-7pm (Tue-Sat), closed on Sundays and Mondays.
More Museums and Galleries
While these are the museums and art galleries that we’d recommend to every visitor in Kuala Lumpur, it doesn’t mean that these venues are the only ones worth visiting. If you have the time, you can also check out the National Museum of Malaysia (Muzium Negara), National Textile Museum (Muzium Tekstil Negara), Royal Museum (Muzium Diraja), Orang Asli Crafts Museum (Muzium Seni Kraf Orang Asli), PETRONAS Art Gallery (Galeri PETRONAS), and many more.
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