Arts Kuala Lumpur Miami Brings Malaysian Culture, Food, and Booze to Art Basel

In the sea of impressive and eye-catching displays coming this winter to Miami during Art Basel, one country will make its overdue debut. Often described as an ethnic melting pot, Malaysia's rich art culture will join Miami's sweaty, glitzy stew for the first Malaysian art festival.

South Florida resident and entrepreneur Norsham Blasko has been working to bring a bit of Malaysia to Miami for the past four years. Using her prior experience as a gallery coordinator and art dealer, Blasko teamed up with Malaysian government and business officials to establish Arts Kuala Lumpur-Miami, an exhibit dedicated to showcasing some of Malaysia's most impressive artistic contributions.

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"As a Malaysian, I feel it is such an honor and my responsibility to bring Malaysian artists to be recognized to an international level here in Miami," Blasko said via email. "There has not been any other independent Malaysian art venue such as this before in Miami or in the world."

Blasko says Malaysia's diverse culture will bring vibrancy and unexpected artwork to the Miami event, with more than 30 different mediums of art such as contemporary works and photography, to sculptures and installations. Featured artists include master sculptor Raj Sharhiman, who forges skeletal and badass metal warriors, and young pop artist Akhmal Asyraf, who uses recyclable and unused material to create mixed mediums on wood.

"There are many talented artists that have the potential to be recognized worldwide but have not had the chance to be exposed at that level," Blasko said. "I have developed Arts Kuala Lumpur to be the voice for these artists."

Arts KUALA LUMPUR-Miami will include works by Dr. Choong Kam Kow, whose contemporary paintings are in the permanent collections of art museums and galleries across Asia, Europe, and the U.S. The festival also features pieces from Malaysia's first indigenous artist Shahar "Shaq" Koyok, as well as Dr. Azimin Tazilan, who incorporates microarchitecture and sustainable urbanism research into his paintings. Traditional and contemporary Malaysian batik artwork also will be displayed. Batik is a huge part of Malaysia's artistic expression, particularly on the country's east coast, and has been endorsed by the government as a national dress.

But why should Miamians tear themselves away from the typical Warhols and black-and-white nudes and visit the Malaysian art festival? Well, on top of the unique images, music, and dance, there will be food and booze -- authentic, luscious Malaysian food and booze made with exotic beverages, according to Blasko. Also, local tycoons and go-getters can mingle Malaysian government representatives and business leaders.

"The Malaysia art world is proud and excited because we will be one of the first countries to have its own venue during Art Basel Week," Blasko said. "This is an opportunity for the Malaysian art community to have an event as a platform to expose their work worldwide."

Arts Kuala Lumpur-Miami (2235 NW Second Ave., Miami) opens on December 4 and 5 by private invitation only and opens to the public December 6 through 8. Email [email protected].

--Shelly Davidov

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Miami New Times staff