Ivan Lam: The Relevance Of Malaysian Art In A Post-Pandemic World
Thoughts on the value and accessibility of art from the celebrated contemporary artist who was featured on Tatler Asia's Culture List 2021
Would you give away a painting worth RM15,000 to a complete stranger?
Yet, that’s precisely what artist Ivan Lam planned to do in 2020, all in the name of sparking thought-provoking conversations about the accessibility of art and its ability to create tangible, positive impact.
“The Ivan Lam Giveaway was about getting people that don’t normally collect or view art to do so,” shares Lam. “Through a raffle system, everyone is given the same chance to win or own my art, defying the notion that ‘high art’ only belongs to ’high society’. It shows that art can be a platform where people can come together to do something special and powerful, collectively.”
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We artists are a resilient bunch; we thrive on adversity.
— Ivan Lam
Curated by Wei-Ling Gallery, the proceeds from The Ivan Lam Giveaway raffle went towards UNICEF, an organisation that Lam has long supported. As a contemporary artist, Lam is known for pushing the envelope with his highly experimental techniques and challenging conventional ways of thinking about and interacting with art.
In 2019, he was one of four Malaysian artists selected to represent Malaysia at the country’s first National Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition (La Biennale di Venezia 2019), an experience which he describes as profound and humbling. Many ‘firsts’ have marked the 46-year old’s illustrious art career so far: the first and only Malaysian artist commissioned by Louis Vuitton for its global store at Starhill Gallery in 2014, the first Malaysian artist to present his work at the inaugural Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013; and the only Malaysian artist invited to participate in the Karachi Biennale in 2017.
That said, the pandemic has thrown Lam his most intense challenge yet: adapting his practice to the digital world. “Five to 10 years from now, artists will still be making art traditionally and this won’t change. It’s we who are constantly evolving—I believe contemporary art will recover in time. We artists are a resilient bunch, we thrive on adversity.”
That said, the pandemic has thrown Lam his most intense challenge yet: adapting his practice to the digital world, a realm he admits he has neglected in the past. But true to his tour de force nature, that hasn’t stopped him from creating a YouTube channel to stream his video works and pushing out a solo show this month at Wei-Ling Contemporary, a project that began as an animation series during Malaysia’s first movement restriction order (MCO).
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“Maybe five to 10 years from now, artists will still be making art traditionally and this won’t change. It’s we who are constantly evolving—I think everyone will be held more accountable for their own creative content creation or lack of it in the future.” says Lam. “I do believe contemporary art will recover from this pandemic and get stronger in time. We artists are a resilient bunch, we thrive on adversity.”
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