The Malaysian National Art Gallery was established in 1958. That same year, the Imperial Institute in London was renamed the Commonwealth Institute, marking its transition into a cultural centre of the Commonwealth of Nations. Though the histories of both institutions have been discussed elsewhere, their early relationship has yet to be critically examined.

In this talk, “Soft Power in Post-independence Malaya: The Role of the National Arts Gallery and the Commonwealth Institute in Internationalising Arts,” Sarena Abdullah looks at how the National Art Gallery internationalised the art scene in Malaysia by participating in exhibitions organised by the Commonwealth Institute during the 1960s and 1970s, such as Commonwealth Arts Festival (1965) and Malaysian Art 1965–1978 (1978). Abdullah argues that such collaborations can be regarded as soft power at play, when read in the context of Malayan–Commonwealth ties, regional politics, and Commonwealth ideals. This talk stems from her research as part of London, Asia, a collaboration between Asia Art Archive and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Free and open to the public with registration.

Sarena Abdullah is the current Deputy Dean (Research, Postgraduate, and Linkages) at the School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and a Research Fellow at the USM Centre for Policy Research and International Studies. She is also the London, Asia Research Award Grantee 2017.

 

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