The AFK Collection

The AFK Collection is a collection of the first generation of Malaysian contemporary artists, representing the development of Malaysia’s contemporary art movement. Instigated by Aliya and Farouk Khan, the collection is dedicated to the acquisition, preservation and documentation of those artworks that mark the growth of a contemporary art movement in Malaysia. Critical in quality, encompassing all genres, mediums and forms of art that have been produced from 1980 to present day, this collection is recognised as a watershed moment for contemporary art, both in Malaysia as well as the wider Southeast Asia region. Indeed, it was subsequent to the establishment of The AFK Collection that a contemporary Malaysian art ecology was solidified.

The collection was initiated by Aliya and Farouk Khan, after they moved from Singapore in the mid 1990’s, through visits to art galleries, in particular Artist Colony situated in the Lake Gardens and Artist Salon situated in Telawi, Bangsar, viewing art competitions such as Bakat Muda (Young Contemporaries) at National Art Gallery Malaysia and the purchase of contemporary artworks. This early period was marked by a great deal of primary research efforts, chiefly via conversations with art industry individuals and viewing artworks, paving the way for a determined collecting effort from 2003. From then on, the collectors kept a regular practice of knowledge gathering, mainly through meeting with artists, curators and art writers who had knowledge on the local art ecology. This practice coupled with surveying artworks directly quickly grew both their knowledge and opinion, allowing The AFK Collection to be informatively and intellectually guided.

The first generation of Malaysian contemporary artists represent a Golden Period of artistic advancement in Malaysia. It is the contemporary movement which stands out as exceedingly critical within the country’s art movement, in that the works produced are of a high standard both conceptually and technically, and speak to local history and current conditions. The intellectual approach of local contemporary artists is consistently matched by strong formalistic skills, which are grounded in local heritage traditions as well as formal fine arts education.

In housing a comprehensive collection of seminal artworks by a wide variety of critically relevant artists from the beginning of this movement The AFK Collection is able to act as a resource centre for knowledge, containing enough material for major bodies of research to be undertaken. Thus, the narrative of Malaysia’s contemporary art canon is developed through the collection, and as the movement continues to grow, artworks are added to ensure the collection continues to increase in its comprehensiveness.

Continuing to the future, the aim of The AFK Collection is to provide an institutional representation of the contemporary movement and create an awareness of the history of Malaysian contemporary art. This is achieved through intensified research on Malaysian art history with the intention to produce written publications as well as stage exhibitions in line with this research. Overall The AFK Collection and this subsequent work being done around it will create awareness and knowledge on the canon and timeline of Malaysia’s dynamic contemporary art movement.

A long term vision of engagement with local and international audiences, as well as the production and dissemination of new knowledge, is deeply coded in The AFK Collection’s DNA. Efforts began strongly in 2009 with IMCAS- a fair for young artists held at Danga City Mall, Johor Bahru, which was held alongside a large scale exhibition of artworks from The AFK Collection. Today, IMCAS is held up as a turning point in Malaysia’s art history, for being one of the first times contemporary art was prolifically displayed for wider audiences. Within the next year there was the launch of Malaysian Contemporary Art: The Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection book, a Catalogue Raisonné of the collection with essays by Peter Frank, Safrizal Shahir and Farouk Khan, discussing the history of Malaysia’s contemporary art movement as well as the thesis underpinning the collection’s formation. Monumental in content and design, this book provided a basis for research not only through these critical essays, but also artist biographies and information on the individual artworks housed in the collection.

2010 saw the formation of MCAT- Malaysian Contemporary Art Tourism Festival- launched at Sri Perdana (the former home of Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Mahatir) with an exhibition of The AFK Collection in a purpose built exhibition space. The MCAT exhibition travelled to Malacca; this along with the staging of IMCAS in Johor Bahru were part of initial initiatives to widen the reach of contemporary art from the capital of Kuala Lumpur to other parts of Malaysia. As all these events occurred prior to the wide-spread usage of social media, strong media drives promoted them, furthering awareness on these initiatives whose conception Aliya and Farouk Khan were integral to. Along the way Aliya and Farouk Khan have regularly engaged with critical discourse, participating in roundtable discussions and giving talks on Malaysia’s dynamic art movement as well as their own journey as collectors.

The AFK Collection embraced the next step in their long term vision of engagement through technology platforms, with the launch of the website in 2020 . By digitising the collection in its entirety, a critical repository of visual and intellectual information has been created. As the collection was permanently memorialised and expertly protected, The AFK Collection continued sitting at the vanguard of Southeast Asia’s contemporary art movement, paving the way for dynamic new developments. Audiences both local and international were granted access to an indispensable resource for information, writing and images pertaining to Malaysia’s contemporary art movement. Artists, artworks and the wider Malaysian art world are now able to become a part of global conversations, through the efforts of this monumental art collection.