CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Early (Visual) Modernities in Malaysian Art: Expanding the Narrative

Session 13 Transmission and Adoption

Universiti Sains Malaysia


The history of modern art in early 20th century Malaysia has always been patchy. The forms of modernity in Malaysia, especially in the arts, have not been extensively discussed; neither has the term "modern art". The basic understanding of modern art in Malaysia does not refer to a modern art movement as occurred in Euramerica. Instead, the term is usually used to differentiate arts that do not fall under traditional arts and crafts, and the employment of medias that are alien to locals. Yet, modern art in Malaysia—or Malaya at that time—has been purported from as early as the 1930s, or perhaps slightly earlier. This paper will expand the premise of modern (visual) art by looking at several sketches from 19th century Malay manuscripts and early printed medias (ie. illustrations and cartoons) as possible evidence of early visual modernity in Malaysia.