Censorship claims at Kuala Lumpur’s National Art Gallery

Ahmad Fuad Osman. Courtesy Sharjah Biennial

Kuala Lumpur’s National Art Gallery (NAG) has removed four artworks from Malaysian contemporary artist Ahmad Fuad Osman’s solo show, following an anonymous complaint by a board member of the institution, The Star reports. Following the removal of the works, Fuad posted an open letter on his Instagram account stating ‘all the works that the curator and I proposed to exhibit at the NAG were submitted for the museum’s consideration and feedback. The gallery agreed to all the works installed. This act of censorship is profoundly troubling and unacceptable’.

The removal of an untitled two-part 2002 work featuring ‘Missing’ poster paintings of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the triptych Dreaming Of Being A Somebody Afraid Of Being A Nobody (2019), Imitating The Mountain (2004) and an installation work Mak Bapak Borek, Anak Cucu Cicit Pun Rintik (2016-2018) occurred on 4 February, leaving blank spaces where the artwork had been installed.

Fuad condemns the act as ‘arbitrary, unjustified and an abuse of institutional power… Contemporary art in Malaysia has always challenged conventions and it has consistently made political commentary’. In his open letter, Fuad requests that the exhibition, which spans three decades of his career, be closed immediately, and calls for further public discussion and scrutiny into NAG’s censorship of his work. This act, he says, questions ‘the integrity of the arts in Malaysia, and the process by which it is served by public institutions’.

10 February 2020