In Mandarin, ZHAN as a verb means “to reveal”, but when used as a noun, it can mean “exhibition”. Fittingly, founder Desmond Tong and co-founder Dr Ginny Tong believe that ZHAN Art | The space is a space for emerging artists to showcase their talents.
You come from many different backgrounds; Desmond studied international business and marketing before pursuing a career in PR, while Ginny studied media and communications, later working in digital media and management within the Sunway Group.
In the end, the two decided to venture into business together, and ZHAN Art | Space was born in 2018.
According to Desmond, the art space is more than a passion project or a business. It is meant to be an opportunity and a platform given to artists.
“I named the gallery “Art | The space “because I believe in the permanence of brands and that it can go beyond just representing art,” says Desmond.
Desmond has always been passionate about the arts — be it music, fashion, fine art or theatre.
So, it’s time to pursue a new career, the foray into the art field is unquestionable.
“Compared to our neighbors like Singapore, Taiwan, and even Thailand, the arts scene in Malaysia is still in need of growth and development. It’s an industry with a lot of potential,” said Desmond.
So there are two main ways they hope to impact our local arts industry.
First, Ginny believes that the current art scene often favors experienced artists. That’s exactly why they made the wise decision for ZHAN Art | The space serves as a space and opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their talents.
She also argues that appreciation for the arts in Malaysia is still lacking. This may be because young people are less exposed to it, or simply because of the perception that pursuing a career in the arts means one will always be financially constrained.
Ginny said that the lack of appreciation for the arts has been exacerbated by the pandemic, “Although many of us have largely relied on the arts during the lockdown, it can be binge-watching TV dramas. pictures or learning to cook via YouTube, but art is not considered an essential service’.”
“We hope to provide a space for emerging talent, which will encourage the public to see art as a viable and rewarding profession,” she added.
Some say the appreciation of art comes from what you make of a piece of work. As a result, many galleries and exhibitions let the observer interpret a work of art the way they like it, without focusing too much on what the artist intends for the observer to see.
“Our biggest differentiator is our focus on storytelling through our curated exhibits; Desmond explains how artists convey their stories to audiences.
According to Desmond, there aren’t many platforms in Malaysia that focus on artists’ stories. They tend to focus on the “decorative” part of a piece of art and the subsequent sales.
Like-minded Ginny believes that connections are made when “art” speaks to an audience. This determines which artists they choose to work with.
Throughout the years, ZHAN Art | Space has organized many “firsts” solo exhibitions for emerging artists. Among them are Alya Hatta, Isa Ishak and Peisy Ting.
When describing the type of artwork depicted at the art space, Desmond mentioned that they exhibited all types of medium. These include sculptures, paintings, animations, and videos.
Not as highly valued as art in the community, Desmond believes that every generation appreciates art, but “how much” is a different question.
“We aim to appeal to all ages, regardless of race, gender and religion. We believe that art can speak to everyone; Desmond explains that even if you don’t like the piece, it can still evoke emotions in you.
For example, the art space worked with the Foundation for Opportunities for People with Learning Disabilities (GOLD), to create an art exhibit featuring artwork drawn by people in need. especially in 2019.
But art isn’t all about rectangular or square pictures; In January 2022, the art space kicked off a collaborative project between two local talents from different disciplines in the visual arts and fashion sectors.
Through these forms of cooperation, the Song brothers hope to continue their efforts to push boundaries and contribute more to the arts in general.
Additionally, the art space held a panel discussion after reopening its first COVID-19 lockdown. The aim was to re-evaluate the concept of an artist’s intentions in contemporary, post-pandemic art.
Besides generating revenue from sold artwork, ZHAN Art | Space has a line of artist collaboration merchandise for sale. They also handle commission work.
They were recently part of the Art Venue Restoration Program supported by CENDANA. It has proven to be of great help to the art space during the lockdown, but with that behind them, the team is now looking to the future.
While it seems the future of art lies in the digital realm, at least on current trends (such as with NFT), ZHAN Art | Space makes it clear that they are not part of that movement.
They are more concerned with building and developing physical connections between the audience and tangible works of art.
“Art has always been a form of expression and a way to record a piece of history, whether it is painted on canvas or painted on stone walls,” says Desmond.
Therefore, art can be admired on a digital platform, they believe that it cannot be compared with seeing art with their own eyes. However, they do not eliminate the potential of digital art.
Ultimately, Ginny shared that their goal was to establish an art space that offers different art forms, both digital and traditional. Only they then believe that they are contributing to the appreciation and lasting happiness of art and artists.
Moving forward, ZHAN Art | Space plans to expand its store in the north of Malaysia, before expanding internationally.
Ginny sums up: “If we can inspire more young people to pursue artistic careers and motivate non-art lovers to appreciate art, then I think we’ve done a pretty good job. good.
- Learn more about ZHAN Art | Space is here.
- Read about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured image credit: ZHAN Art | Space