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Myanmar contemporary art making up for lost time


Two men look at abstract artworks on display in the Museum Activity Art Exhibition at the National Museum in Yangon. Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar Times

YANGON, Myanmar – The national museum ends its 20 year-long policy of ignoring contemporary Myanmar artists

For the first time in more than 20 years, the National Museum in Yangon plans to grow its collection of contemporary Myanmar art.  

The Museum Activity Art Exhibition, which runs from February 20 to 28, showcases the work of 73 Myanmar artists produced within the last 20 years and marks a change in the museum’s policy towards contemporary art. The exhibition features 73 watercolour, oil and acrylic paintings ranging in style, from abstract to realism.

The museum’s collection of 221 paintings consists mostly of realist works which reflect traditionally held notions of beauty in Myanmar society. But the rise of more abstract and surrealist artists in Myanmar over the last two decades sees the museum wanting to expand its collection to reflect changing tastes.


 “Many overseas countries bought and collected the paintings of well known Myanmar artists but it is sad that these paintings are not in the National Museum,” said Daw Nang Lao Ngin, Director of the National Museum.

“It’s has been 20 years since the National Museum last collected the paintings of Myanmar artists. So, from now on, we will begin collecting them.”

The National Museum purchased three works for the exhibition, while  27 artists have donated paintings to the National Museum. Other artists have lent their paintings to the museum for the duration of the exhibition.

“Our National Museum group have been preparing for this exhibition for the last four months. With the help of Myanmar art masters U Gyi U Lyun Gywe, Panchi Soe Moe and U Hla Tin Htun we have chosen 73 special artists known for contemporary and realist art to feature in the exhibition,” said Daw Nang Lao Ngin.

A woman walks past an artwork on display in the Museum Activity Art Exhibition at the National Museum in Yangon. Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar Times

Myanmar’s two national museums – the other is another in Nay Pyi Taw – plan to begin hosting contemporary art exhibitions every year, said Daw Nang Lao Ngin. There are plans to eventually merge the collections of the two museums to create a National Art Museum in the future, she added.

One of the most popular works in the exhibition is a portrait of General Aung San, sporting his trademark trench-coat, surrounded by a team of advisers. There are several portraits of his daughter, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi as well. A standout is Artist Sai Myo Myat’s depiction of Suu Kyi, which was bought by U Wai Soe and Daw Nan Leik family who donated it to the museum.

Until now, the National Museum’s art collection has been comprised mostly of realist works. Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar Times

San Min’s acrylic on canvas expressionist piece, “Morale”, makes a statement about the mental strength of Myanmar’s political prisoners. San Min produced the painting this year for a solo exhibition but has since donated it to the museum.
The subject is a  woman in a prison uniform standing with her arms folded, resilient smile on her face. In the background there is a brick wall, some white clouds and an aeroplane.

“I wanted to recreate the life of a political prisoner,” he said. “When you are a political prisoner, it’s important to have strong morale.”

The Museum Activity Art Exhibition runs until February 28 at the National Museum (Yangon).

From: THE MYANMAR TIMES (MYANMAR) February 27, 2018



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