My arty Valentine: Is KL cool enough for art-loving couples? We think so

Valentine’s Day may be too common for art-loving hipster couples. If you’re both a fan of visiting art galleries and a good cup of coffee, you might need to go the extra mile to find a perfect weekend venue for a date in Kuala Lumpur.

In general, art is hardly in the equation when it comes to romantic outings in Malaysia.

But with the rise of young art lovers and new collectors, things are slowly changing around KL. There are now a handful of go-to places in the capital to enjoy arts and culture. Fortunately, they also serve as a backdrop to brighten up a romantic weekend.

We have restricted three locations in KL:

The Back Room KL provides an intimate and comfortable space to enjoy art…and each other. Photo: The back room KL

The Zhongshan Building

Located in Jalan Kampung Attap, this deceptively small, graffiti-tattooed old building might look suspicious, but the Zhongshan Building turned out to be one of KL’s central art hubs. House of the Back room KL, there’s no shortage of interesting, cool, abstract, sometimes cute art exhibits to explore here. The gallery is currently hosting an exhibition by artist Chong Yi Lin, his first exhibition of the year. Art lovers, take note.

Other aesthetic enthusiasts will also appreciate Bogus Merchandise store’s irreverent t-shirts and anatomy’s minimalist stationery for hardcore newspaper writers. You also have specialist independent bookstores and a record store to explore together. For that important cup of coffee and arty conversation time, Zhongshan also has a few note picks, including a pocket coffee and a pop-up stand. More of a tea lover? The brewmasters at Kok Far Tea bring you a library of unpronounceable tea varieties that will soothe the mind and soul.

At GMBB, the bonus for this Valentine's Day weekend is the return of the PingMin Market, which returns to the theme of nostalgia to take you back in time.  Photo: GMBB At GMBB, the bonus for this Valentine’s Day weekend is the return of the PingMin Market, which returns to the theme of nostalgia to take you back in time. Photo: GMBB

GMBB

Going down to the Bukit Bintang area, you will find GMBB. It’s the capital’s latest creative community mall that has finally found its stride after two years of pandemic disruption. If your loved one loves photography (or loves being photographed), you’re in luck. Currently, the gallery hosts a traveling exhibition featuring Japanese print art from the 1970s.

Photographic images and material: Japanese prints of the 1970s features 14 artists who have helped shape contemporary graphic art. The artworks use printing blocks, paper and ink to create unprecedented abstractions. There are also fun activities for the adventurous couple like skating and crafts. And of course, there are art shops, a children’s bookstore, independent exhibition spaces and trendy cafes to take your obligatory food photos and Instagram stories.

The bonus for this Valentine’s Day weekend is the return of the PingMin Market, which returns to the theme of nostalgia to take you back in time.

Ilham Gallery “Kok Yew Puah: Portrait of a Malaysian Artist” Exhibition at Ilham Gallery.  Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah Ilham Gallery “Kok Yew Puah: Portrait of a Malaysian Artist” Exhibition at Ilham Gallery. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

Ilham Gallery

Just down Jalan Binjai in downtown KL, Ilham Gallery is a contemporary art gallery that highlights the works of local artists and designers. If you like local art history, the gallery’s current exhibition Kok Yew Puah: Portrait of a Malaysian Artist is an interesting choice for a date.

The exhibition lists the works of the late Kok Yew Puah, a largely unrecognized Malaysian artist. Her work reflects her personal life journey and the rapid urbanization of her hometown, Klang. If the existentialism of your identity is a talking point in your relationship, pay this show a visit.

When it comes to Ilham Gallery, you are bound to get a well-curated exhibition and art gallery experience, backed by insightful interviews from art experts and peers of the deceased artist to give you a better understanding of Puah’s legacy.

The Ilham gift shop is also not to be missed. It is filled with arts and crafts from local artists. From tote bags, art books, art prints, baskets, and posters, the gift shop ticked off every independent checklist. Not to mention that it also serves coffee.

For that all-important Instagram photo, be sure to check out Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s public sculpture Divina Proportione, located outside the gallery building. It was Ai’s first permanent public sculptural work in Southeast Asia.

About Oscar L. Smith

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