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7 Quirky Art Scenes You Must Check Out: KL & Penang!

Art devotees, rejoice!  Kuala Lumpur and Penang are home to all things hip and artsy, and exploring their distinctive art scenes is the current craze among urbanites today. Adolescent energy and experimental quintessence can be found through the cities’ vibrant streets and spaces in the most unexpected places. Here are our top picks.

Words by: Shafiqah Shafie

Malaysia is a dynamic country, and its local art scenes have beautifully reflected its modern ethos while still maintaining the country’s colourful history. The unique and quirky art scenes of these two urban (or dare I say, hipster?) towns—KL and Penang—have led me to become a present-day art enthusiast for their never-ending experimental spirit and creative evolution. Here are some quirky art events that everyone MUST check off their bucket list!

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Art For Grabs is a bazaar cum mini art fest at The Annexe Gallery © Saraiza

ART FOR GRABS (Kuala Lumpur)

Frequency: Once every three months
Venue: Annexe Gallery, Central Market
Facebook: The Annexe Gallery

Art aficionados will find their artistic radar in perpetual spin once they step foot in this quarterly event. Making Central Market the centre of attention since 2008, Art For Grabs houses dozens of unique stalls that feature an inimitable mix of handmade arts and crafts with many other different interesting projects altogether. 

     From live performances, book launching and poetry recitals to wacky activities and one-of-a-kind showcases, Art For Grabs is the platform for aspiring artistes to show off their talents, from little to no professional experience at all. 

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Rantai Art is a pioneer event in the art festival and independent scene, established in 2006 © Rantai Art


Frequency: Once a year (Upcoming date, 29 & 30 March 2014)
Venue: MIA Red Bungalow, Kuala Lumpur
Facebook: Rantai

True to its tagline, “Because life itself is art”, Rantai Art Festival is an annual art collective event hosted by an established organisation called Rantai.  Their aim is to create a space for budding artists and artisans to project their talents, art works and creative ideas to the public.

     Supported by emerging and talented artistes from various creative departments such as music, painting, photography and art installation, this is where true art can be appreciated and brought to greater heights!

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Fuyoh Art Bazaar features more than 80 vendors at Publika © Art Row, Publika


Frequency: Every last weekend of the month
Venue: Art Row, Publika, Kuala Lumpur
Facebook: Art Row, Publika

Held every last weekend of the month, Fuyoh Art Bazaar, or fabulously known as F.A.B., is an arts and crafts marketplace at Publika. Besides art vendors, live music and art jamming, F.A.B. also sets a quirky theme for each of their event.

     From funny dress codes like “Wear your traditional costume” to great collaborations with NGO groups such as Tanma Women and even quirky art installations that everyone should try out, the market is bound to colour your mood through its array of busking, ukelele music and old-time food favourites!

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Malaysia’s first weekly stand-up comedy open mic show at PJ Live Arts © One Mic Stand

ONE MIC STAND (Kuala Lumpur)

Frequency: Every Tuesday
Venue: PJ Live Arts, Jaya One
Facebook: One Mic Stand

Nothing but raw unadulterated stand-up comedy, that’s how they brand themselves! Claiming to be the first and only weekly open mic for stand-up comedy in Malaysia, One Mic Stand was initiated by two comedians, Kavin Jay and Rizal van Geyzel, and has hosted over 80 shows since its inception.

     The show is an ideal place for those who want a little bit of laughter after a tiring day of work, and also acts as a casual platform for up-and-coming comedians as well as experienced raconteurs to test out new material that is sure to tickle your funny bone each week!  

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SILYMI offers a chance for audiences to get up close with Penang artists and their original and unique work © Say It Like You Mean It


Frequency: Once a month
Venue: The Canteen @ ChinaHouse, Georgetown
Facebook: Say It Like You Mean It

Longing for a good evening of music, comedy, poetry, dance and other exciting and original live entertainment? Say It Like You Mean It (SILYMI) has been bringing down ChinaHouse in Georgetown with monthly shows featuring some of the best new original artists in Penang and Malaysia. Every month, SILYMI invites artists to chew on a theme with their creative pieces, and unleash the resulting orchestra of ideas onto delighted audiences. 

     SILYMI performs monthly from January to August and is currently on its second season. From Chinese Opera-inspired arrangements of a local blues band to traditional folk songs performed by Iranian students in Penang, SILYMI offers a tantalising taste of an island at the crossroads of the world.

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The event gathers  creative minds  at Armenian Street © Armenian Street’s Got Talent


Frequency: Every Saturday
Venue: Armenian Street, Georgetown
Facebook: Armenian Street’s Got Talent 文艺

Supported by YB Teh Lai Heng’s Service Center in collaboration with George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Municipal Council of Penang Island (MPPP)and Penang State Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee, this project has been carried out as a trial run since November last year. 

     Held every Saturday from 5pm to 10pm, Armenian Street’s Got Talent acts as a centre stage for all art lovers and performers to explore and broaden their talents. The project aims to give more exposure to arts, and to further enrich the cultural characteristics of Georgetown.

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Yosakoi first started in Japan using their local folk songs for the parade. In Penang? It’s Yosakoi Rasa Sayang! © Penang Yosakoi Parade


Frequency: Once a year (Upcoming date, 1 March 2014)
Venue: ChinaHouse, Georgetown
Facebook: Say It Like You Mean It

Hitting the streets of Penang for the second year this March, the annual event attracts over 350 dancers and parade performers, with dozens of stalls being set up to regale over 15,000 visitors in this one-day event at the Esplanade and along Beach Street in Penang.

     Yosakoi, meaning “come at night” in Japanese, features all sorts of attractions that amicably represent the many wonderful festivals of Japan. The underlying theme is to showcase the cultural diversity, depth and breadth of festivals that are being celebrated on the streets, in both Japan and Penang.


GETTING THERE Fly to Kuala Lumpur and Penang from various destinations via AirAsia. For flight information and the lowest fares, go to www.airasia.com.

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