State Art Gallery gets a new home

Major cities around the world usually have iconic buildings housing their art galleries, and Penang should follow suit.

The former government quarters at No. 6, Jalan Sepoy Lines have been designated as an extension of the Penang State Art Gallery (PSAG) and a new destination for art.

Gallery director Haryany Mohamad said initial inspections showed the main two-story building, which sits on 0.5ha of land, was in good condition despite being unoccupied for a decade.

She said it was built in the 1920s at a cost of Straits $20,000 and was occupied by the Department of Lands and Minerals until 2004.

From 2005 to 2012, he served as the Director of Accountant General’s Department of Penang.

(L to R) Haryany, Yeoh and Mohamad Farazi at the press conference. — Photos by CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

“We estimate that it will take approximately two years to renovate the main building and ancillary structures before the gallery opens to the public.

“For now, it is planned that this space will house the permanent collection of the PSAG,” she said at a recent press conference.

The collection currently has approximately 1,800 pieces dating from the 1800s to the present day, ranging from paintings to sculptures, photographs, ceramics, prints and other mixed media works.

Its creators include famous names like arts pioneer Datuk Chuah Thean Teng, Datuk Mohd Hoessein Enas and Abdullah Arif.

There are also pieces by William Daniell and Captain Robert Smith of the East India Company, depicting scenes from Penang 200 years ago.

The PSAG currently has two two-storey exhibition spaces at the rear of Dewan Sri Pinang, but these are generally used for ongoing and rotating exhibitions.

Although unoccupied for a decade, the two-story building is still in good condition.Although unoccupied for a decade, the two-story building is still in good condition.

As such, Haryany said the new Jalan Sepoy Lines building will provide much needed additional space.

However, it is also dependent on the state government’s decision to renovate the Light Street Multipurpose Auditorium.

If that happens, the new space could become PSAG’s main residence.

Anyway, the chairman of the state tourism and creative economy committee, Yeoh Soon Hin, said it was time for the PSAG to have an independent building to serve as a focal point for art. in Penang.

“In Europe, museums and art galleries are major attractions for tourists. London has the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, while Paris has the Louvre.

“I have a vision to create more spaces like these in Penang, not only to house invaluable assets that celebrate our heritage, but also to be a catalyst for the local art economy by attracting enthusiasts of art from all over the world to come and spend money here.

“This would in turn create more opportunities for local art practitioners. As this site has been vacant for 10 years, its transformation will be a milestone for the local art scene,” Yeoh noted.

He then joined Haryany, Penang Datuk Chief Financial Officer Dr Mohamad Farazi Johari, State Heritage Commissioner Rosli Nor, PSAG Board Chairman Lee Khai and other officials for a site visit.

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